The case seemed a cut and paste homicide when one William Richards was convicted of murdering his wife. The testimony against him was overwhelming, so it came as no surprise when, despite his vehement pleas of innocence, he was sentenced to 25 years to life. Now, almost 20 years after the verdict was announced in the matter, a state law, which came into effect in January, may transform the fate of Richards and many others like him.
Recanted testimony is grounds enough to overturn a verdict!
The Governor of California signed a bill in January which would make it possible to ask that a conviction be vacated if the expert testimony is repudiated. According to a professor of Criminal law at the Loyola Law School, experts might reconsider their opinions in light of recent developments in forensic science. If this happens, defense attorneys are given the margin they need to seek the exoneration of their clients.
Whether Richards will be allowed to walk or not remains to be seen. However, at least the new law gets his attorneys face time in the apex court of California which had earlier upheld the verdict of the Appellate court in the matter. The Court of Appeals had reinstated Richards’ conviction even though a county judge had earlier overturned the verdict. If reprieve is granted to Richards through the appeal, it goes without saying that tribunals at various judicial rungs will be receiving a lot of appeals due to this change