LOS ANGELES – A judge agreed Friday to dismiss murder case against a man suspected of killing 10 homeless men in Los Angeles in the 1970s, because he only has six months to live.
At a hearing Friday morning, Bobby Joe Maxwell’s sister Rosie Harmon burst into tears when the Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Larry Fidler dismissed Maxwell’s case following a request from the prosecutors.
Harmon called her mother immediately after the hearing, the parts of the authorities decision that came nearly four decades after Maxwell was jailed in 1979.
“While Mr. Maxwell was admitted to the hospital, there were sheriffs sit with him 24/7 and they had to get permission to determine when they can come, and the visit of the sheriff,” Maxwell’s lawyer Pierpont Laidley said.
“Now he is a free man, they will be able to visit like all of the other visitors,” Laidley said.
The 68-year-old is in a coma since December last year, when he suffered a heart attack and will probably never recover, Deputy prosecutor Robert Grace said.
Maxwell was convicted in the 1980s of two murders. The court of appeal destroyed Maxwell’s convictions decades later, after it turned out that he was the victim of a notorious prison snitch that perjury committed in his two convictions.
Court documents show the court of appeal referred the case, jailhouse informant, Sidney Storch, a “habitual liar.”
The case against Maxwell appeared thin to Storch came. The only physical evidence, the court of appeal said, was a palm print found on a bench in an area Maxwell frequented. Storch, who was Maxwell’s cellmate for three weeks, read about print in news accounts and said he asked Maxwell about it.
He claimed that Maxwell confessed he had made a mistake failing to wear gloves during the stitch. Maxwell denied making the comment.
In 2013, prosecutors refiled five murder against him.
Grace said prosecutors moved expeditiously to make a decision once they have confirmed that Maxwell is unlikely to win back health and that he would continue to receive acute medical care in the hospital after he is released from custody.
Grace called the dismissal a “compassionate release” and stressed that there was no finding of Maxwell’s guilt or innocence. The prosecutors will seek to refile the charges if Maxwell gets.
Maxwell’s lawyers said that they are ready to prove his innocence.
“Mr. Maxwell has always maintained that he was innocent, and has fought to prove his innocence for forty years,” another of Maxwell’s lawyers, Frederick Alschuler, said.