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We’ve all heard of these types of terrible mixups but the problem is once this has occurred how can such a drastic wrong be made right in total? Reggie Cole left prison a free man Saturday, after serving 16 years for a murder he didn’t commit. But instead of heading straight home to Los Angeles, he made a detour to California Western School of Law in San Diego. “He wanted to meet a lot of the students who had worked on his case,” said Justin Brooks, director of the school’s California Innocence Project.

Roughly a dozen students and a dozen lawyers worked more than three years to prove that Cole had been wrongfully convicted of a 1994 robbery and murder in South Los Angeles. He had been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

His case received a second look in 2000 after he was charged with killing another inmate, a crime for which he could have received the death penalty. Christopher Plourd, the Los Angeles lawyer who represented Cole in that prison killing, successfully argued that his client had been acting in self-defense.

But Plourd also found holes in the man’s original conviction, and alerted the California Innocence Project. The project’s team cast doubt on eyewitness testimony that had been critical in convicting Coles, and proved that his original legal representation had been ineffective.

Freed from Calipatria State Prison in Imperial County Saturday morning, Cole traveled to San Diego for a party with his lawyers, California Western students, family and other well-wishers.


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