Oscar Lee Morris
County of Conviction: Los Angeles, California
Race: African American
Wrongful Conviction: Murder, Robbery
Exonerated Date: 2000
Years Served: 17
William Maxwell was shot to death in Long Beach, California. Several months later, Joe West told police that his friend Oscar Lee Morris had murdered Maxwell. West had known Oscar since childhood, and the two had a falling out shortly before West went to the police. West testified that he received nothing from the state in return for his testimony, though it was later revealed that in fact West’s sentence for an auto theft charge had been reduced and his sentence for a parole violation had been terminated. Oscar was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
Finally, in 1997, West recanted his testimony against Oscar on his death bed. As a result, the Supreme Court of California ordered an evidentiary hearing in 1998, and the Los Angeles County Superior Court granted Morris a new trial. Prosecutors declined to retry the case, and Morris was freed in 2000. Morris filed a lawsuit against the city in 2002, but received no relief.