Daniel Larsen is the victim of a continuing injustice. Despite a finding by two federal judges that no juror who heard all the evidence in his criminal trial would ever have convicted him and despite an order that he be set free as a result, he remains in custody. That is a violation of his most basic rights. There is, however, a way to correct this wrong: Gov. Jerry Brown should pardon him.
Larsen was at the Golden Apple bar in Northridge about 1 a.m. on June 6, 1998. There was a fight and police responded. When they arrived, they saw a man toss an object under a car. They recovered a knife and identified Larsen as the man who had thrown it aside. Larsen was arrested and ultimately convicted of possessing the weapon. Because of two prior, nonviolent convictions, Larsen's "third strike" had grave implications: He was sentenced to 28 years to life.
But Larsen's trial was hindered by his extraordinarily ineffective defense. The lawyer, since disbarred, called no witnesses and made no effort to determine whether others at the scene would corroborate the police account. Had he, the outcome might well have been different, as three witnesses, one a former police officer, later testified to seeing another man with the knife. Indeed, that same man submitted a declaration that pretty much seals the deal: "I know that the knife was not [Larsen's] because it was mine."