Wrongful conviction lawsuit for exonerated San Jose man heads toward trial

A wrongful conviction lawsuit from a man incarcerated 17 years for a San Jose drive-by shooting — based on flimsy witness identifications that were later recanted — has been allowed to proceed toward trial by a federal judge, according to the San Jose Mercury News.  As reporter Robert Salonga recounts, “federal Judge Beth Labson Freeman allowed claims against three San Jose police officers at the time — Topui Fonua, Joe Perez and Steven Spillman — to head toward trial, rejecting city legal arguments to toss the lawsuit. Several other officers initially named in the lawsuit have since been dropped from the case, as was the city.”

“I’m grateful the court has ruled that the police officers who put me behind bars for 17 years have to answer to a jury,” Rubalcava said in a statement Thursday. “The state declared my actual innocence in 2019, and now there’s no one but the officers whose actions led to my wrongful conviction that are still trying to justify their misconduct.”

The story continued: “Neufeld Scheck Brustin Hoffmann and Freudenberger, a New York-based law firm, is representing Rubalcava. The firm famously secured a massive $13.1 million payout in 2019 from the city of San Francisco to Jamal Trulove. A federal civil jury determined that Trulove was framed by SFPD in the murder of his friend; he served seven years in prison before his conviction was overturned.”

“It should have been obvious from the beginning that the police had the wrong person in custody, but instead they fabricated evidence and got witnesses to falsely identify our client,” attorney Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting our evidence to a jury and obtaining vindication for Mr. Rubalcava.”

Read the full story here.

Read additional coverage of the ruling from Courthouse News here.

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