Ronald Ross walked out of prison last week after serving six years for a crime he didn't commit. While there's cause for celebration that an innocent man was set free, justice was not served.
An Oakland police detective, now retired, conducted an inept investigation. An Alameda County deputy district attorney, still on the job, blindly prosecuted the wrong man. Three people who testified at trial apparently committed perjury. And someone has gotten away with attempted murder.
A lot of people have a lot of explaining to do.
But first, let's admire Ross' ability to look forward. He has every reason to be angry at the people and the system that led to his 25-year-to-life sentence. If not for the tireless efforts of the Santa Clara University Law School's Northern California Innocence Project and the pro-bono work of San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest, Ross would still be behind bars.
Yet Ross, 51, says he holds no grudges. "The first year and a half, I was mad until I realized that God do things for a reason," Ross said. "It was just something that happened."
To be sure, Ross was no angel. He frequently used drugs before he was sent to prison. "I'm a whole lot better now because I had time to think about things," he said. "I'm trying to keep my nose clean. A lot of people I had seen before I went to prison are still doing the same activity. I can't go back to that. No way. No more."
How many of us, having been through such an ordeal, would say the same? Ross had a troubled past, but violence wasn't part of it. He didn't deserve this.
Which brings us to the next issue: How did this happen?
The detective, then-Sgt. Steven Lovell, was simply lazy. The shooting victim said three people knocked on his door and that one of them shot him. The victim identified one of the men, yet Lovell never pursued the lead.
Instead he placed pictures of Ross, whose mother happened to live in the neighborhood 10 years earlier, and five other men in a photo lineup showed to the victim as he lay in a hospital bed with a morphine drip. The victim identified another man, but Lovell urged him to look again. It was then that he picked out Ross.
From there, things snowballed. Lovell and prosecutor Kevin Wong seemingly lost any critical thinking as they went after Ross. We now know witnesses lied in court. There were plenty of warning signs at the time. Closing a case and securing a conviction took precedent over truth and justice.
Police Chief Howard Jordan and District Attorney Nancy O'Malley must explain what went wrong in their offices, and what steps have been taken to ensure it never happens again. Meanwhile, witnesses should be charged with perjury and the actual gunman must be prosecuted.
This case isn't over. But at least Ross has his freedom back. We wish him well.