Two young men were sentenced to serve life in prison for a murder they did not commit, all because an allegedly rogue detective paid a homeless woman $30,000 to testify about a murder she had never witnessed.
Justice was never served because the real killer was never caught.
The victims of this unjustness, Giovante Douglas and Cartier Hunter, have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Oakland Police Department.
The two Bay Area natives served nearly a decade in maximum security prisons before their innocence was proven.
At a news conference, civil rights attorney Adanté Pointer told reporters, “Imagine being sentenced to life, to serve the rest of your natural life behind bars, for something you did not do?”
The lawsuit describes how the criminal justice system can be twisted with just one bad apple in the Oakland Police Department.
The detective involved in this case, Phong Tran, faces multiple felonies in connection to Douglas and Hunter’s wrongful convictions.
Douglas and Hunter were sentenced to life in prison in 2016 after a jury trial. In 2021, the trial’s star witness admitted she lied because she was paid thousands of dollars.
The homeless woman, Aisha Weber, recanted her testimony.
Douglas, now 31, was released from prison in September 2022. At the time of his arrest, Douglas had a two-year-old daughter and a newborn son.
Hunter, now 34, was released in February 2023. “Mr. Hunter too was snatched away from his family and forced to both get married and experience his only child’s birth behind bars,” the lawsuit states.
Pointer said, “These men lost their youth to wrongful imprisonment resulting from lies conjured up by an investigator. Two men were robbed of close to a decade of their life, in the prime of their life, due to the unlawful, illegal, despicable, and criminal conduct of an Oakland police officer.”
On April 25, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office charged Tran with perjury, bribery of a witness, attempted bribery of a witness and inducing a witness to give false testimony.
According to prosecutors, Weber did not witness the murder of Charles Butler Jr. when he was shot to death on December 22, 2011. Weber said she lied under oath because Tran paid her off.
Weber admitted, “My rent was paid. I had spending money. And, at least once, I was put up in a hotel room for a week,” according to the lawsuit. No physical or forensic evidence ever incriminated Douglas or Hunter.
Meanwhile, Douglas and Hunter are trying to pull the pieces of their lives back together, making up for time lost with family, and getting reacclimated to living in the free world, Pointer said.