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SF District Attorney's Office declines to retry 1989 murder case

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San Francisco prosecutors Tuesday declined to retry a man whose murder conviction for a 1989 drive-by shooting in the Bayview district that left two men dead and 11 others wounded was overturned by a judge last month.

Caramad Conley, now 40, was convicted in 1994 of two counts of first-degree murder, 11 counts of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder for the April 1989 shootings on Third Street, according to his attorney Daniel Purcell.

Of the 13 people hit by gunfire, two men, Charles Hughes and Roshawn Johnson, were killed. Prosecutors said the slayings were gang-related.

Conley had been serving a state prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole, but San Francisco Superior Court Judge Marla Miller overturned his conviction in December.

Miller said San Francisco police and prosecutors withheld evidence from defense attorneys that the prosecution’s key witness against Conley received money and temporary housing for his testimony in the case.

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“We have carefully evaluated every potential option in this complex, gang-related murder case,” prosecutor Allison Macbeth said in court Tuesday morning. “However, based upon the current state of the evidence, some 22 years after the fact, and the death and unavailability of key witnesses, we will not be able to sustain our burden of proof at trial,” she said.

Miller said in her ruling that the prosecution’s “linchpin witness,” Clifford Polk, had lied under oath that he was not in witness protection at the time, and that affected his credibility as a witness. She ruled that Conley was denied a fair trial and ordered a new trial.

Polk claimed that Conley confessed to him about the shootings, according to Miller. Other than that, the only eyewitness to the crime was an accomplice to the murders, and there was no physical evidence connecting Conley to the crimes, she said.

Purcell said Conley was never in the cars involved in the shootings and was not a gang member.

Polk died in 2007, according to Purcell.

“It was the best we could have hoped for,” Purcell said of Tuesday’s decision by the district attorney’s office.

District Attorney’s Office spokesman Seth Steward said new District Attorney George Gascón had approved the decision not to retry the case.

Conley had been serving his sentence most recently at Calipatria State Prison in Southern California, and attended Tuesday morning’s hearing in San Francisco Superior Court.

“We hope he’s going to be released today,” Purcell said.

Conley grew up in San Francisco and still has family here and in the state of Washington, according to Purcell.

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