gavel.jpgSan Francisco prosecutors announced today they will retry an imprisoned man whose 1991 murder conviction was overturned by a judge last month.

Maurice Caldwell, 43, had been serving a sentence of 27 years to life in prison for the 1990 fatal shooting of another man, Judy Acosta, during a drug deal at the Alemany public housing projects.

Superior Court Judge Charles Haines on Dec. 16 ordered a new trial on the grounds that Caldwell’s trial attorney had been ineffective by not trying to interview other witnesses who claimed Caldwell was not involved in the shooting.

In court this morning, prosecutor Braden Woods, who heads the district attorney’s office homicide unit, said he intends to take the case to trial again on Jan. 28.

“At this point, we intend to go forward with the trial,” Woods said following the hearing.

“We believe Mr. Caldwell is guilty of the crime, and we are going to try to prove that in court.”

Caldwell was originally identified as one of two men who allegedly shot Acosta, and his trial relied on a single eyewitness, Mary Cobbs, who was Caldwell’s neighbor in the projects.

According to Woods, Cobbs testified that she saw Caldwell fleeing the scene of the murder.

Caldwell was convicted of second-degree murder, but his attorneys with the Northern California Innocence Project said last month that in 2008 and 2009, two men signed declarations that Caldwell had not been involved.

One of the men, Marritte Funches, who is serving a life sentence in prison in Nevada for another murder, confessed to being one of the shooters, Caldwell’s attorneys said.

Caldwell claimed that he never took part in the shooting, but that he heard the gunshots and went out of his apartment to see what had happened.

Despite the fact that Cobbs is no longer alive, Woods said today that he plans to introduce the transcript of her original testimony and cross-examination during the new trial.

Defense attorneys could challenge the introduction of that evidence prior to trial.

Woods acknowledged that pre-trial motions might delay Caldwell’s trial until after Jan. 28.
Reached after today’s hearing, Caldwell’s new attorney, Steve Olmo of the public defender’s office, said he had only had the case 10 days and was still reviewing evidence.

“Based on what I’ve seen so far of the evidence, I believe he’s innocent,” Olmo said. “I believe (Cobbs) fabricated everything.”

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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