By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
By Joe Eskenazi
By Erin Sherbert
By Erin Sherbert
Caldwell's trial stretched over nine days in March 1991.
Assistant District Attorney Al Giannini's opening statement set the tone for the trial. He mentioned the projects, crack cocaine and the frequent violence. "You probably already know the story just from your common sense and experience," he said.
The prosecution had its story: Mary Cobbs was an altruistic hero, Maurice Caldwell the murderous thug. Giannini acknowledged that without Cobbs they wouldn't be here.
"Most of the young men like Caldwell... mostly what they do is hang out, use cocaine, fight, shoot their guns in the air, make life miserable for the people who do live there," Giannini said.
The prosecution argued that Cobbs did not initially identify the shooter as having lived in the neighborhood because Caldwell had no legal residence there. At the time of her first interview, she really didn't know Caldwell's name.
Caldwell's attorney, Craig Martin, meanwhile, was ill-equipped to fight for Caldwell's version of events. He would later concede that he never hired an investigator, which was standard practice, and never examined Cobbs' supposed vantage point of the crime scene. Martin's defense for Caldwell consisted of three people: his roommate, Betty Jean Tyler; his uncle's girlfriend, Deborah Rodriguez; and Alice Caruthers, a friend of his who had seen the shooting before running away.
Tyler testified that Caldwell lived with him, next door to Cobbs, which should've invalidated Cobbs' claim that the supposed shooters weren't from the area. Giannini insinuated that she was afraid of Caldwell.
Rodriguez's testimony that Caldwell was upstairs at the time in her house was questioned because of her family connection to Caldwell. And Caruthers was forced to admit to having used crack in the past. Giannini successfully exploited the fact that any witness from Alemany, where drug use and criminal records are a part of life, had an immediate credibility bias.
Caldwell was found guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder, and shooting at an inhabited vehicle. He was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison. He says he began to cry in front of the full court.
"I never thought I'd be found guilty. If you is innocent, you don't think about having to prove that you didn't do something."
In the middle of 2013, Caldwell spends his days mostly at home, watching TV. Money is extremely tight. Unannounced visitors make him nervous. He likes to control who he sees and when. He goes to therapy to talk through his resentments about what happened; he has lost trust in a system that others take for granted.
Caldwell finds himself from time to time looking at the words the State v. Maurice Caldwell on case documents. On darker days, he reads it literally: Everything is against him. Sometimes, Caldwell says, he wonders if he hasn't swapped one sentence for another.
It was a decade in prison before Caldwell found people who wanted to look into the version of events that would free him.
After his conviction, Caldwell was transferred to San Quentin. Over the years, he'd bounce between Folsom State Prison, Sacrament State Prison, and Mule Creek State Prison. He took any option open to move, he says, because mixing up the locations helped him pass time.
In 1993, Henry Martin, who Caldwell believed to be the man with the shotgun, came through San Quentin on a violation. Caldwell was young and angry and says he planned an attack. "I thought, 'Why, if I ever come across one of them, especially in here, will I let him go back free?'"
Caldwell says Martin caught word of his approach and fled. Caldwell ran after him, choosing instead to talk.
"I expect you to let my lawyer know what really happened. If you got to say you was out there, you better do it," Caldwell recalls telling Martin, who has never admitted on record to holding the shotgun.
Martin did later approach Caldwell's appellate lawyer, asking about immunity, which could not be guaranteed. Martin said nothing else.
When that didn't go anywhere, Caldwell began writing letters to anybody he could think of. Copying files and sending case notes out took up much of the money that was placed on his books. Innocence projects — nonprofit legal organizations that dedicate themselves to exonerating wrongfully conflicted prisoners — were less common in the 1990s. He wrote to one in New Jersey, which eventually recommended another in San Diego, which suggested finding one closer to home. After he sent a letter out, the wait for a response was torture.
The years added up. In prison, he made a point of sleeping until 11 a.m. It hurt, waking up after a night with his dreams. He hated the laughter at breakfast in the morning. "It's like, excuse my language, but what the fuck they laughing at?"
In 2001, with Caldwell's appeals exhausted, his sister and her partner hired an experienced private investigator, Beverly Myers. The prevailing story about the case, the one that sent Caldwell to prison, never sat right with Myers, she remembers.
Visiting the crime scene, Myers was shocked to see that Mary Cobbs could not have witnessed what she claimed to. The lamppost she was supposed to have seen the shooters standing under wasn't visible from her bedroom. Bars over the window further restricted the view.
Lady Justice wears a blindfold which is suppose to represents blind justice, handed-out without fear or favor regardless of race, creed or class. Are we still living in caves, how can something like this keep happening?
Jails, prisons, penitentiaries are all from the mind of the devil. They give nothing that is good. They destroy lives. Jesus communicated with the spirits in prison when he laid his life down for us. King James Version of 1 Peter 3:19 by:also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; God did not create jails to give guilt. Jesus who is the Father seeks to free people that are in prison.
It's seems as if we are.....it's happening all over....I just witnessed/experIenced the exact same ordeal with my son's father. I pray it doesn't take 20 years to prove his innocence....