Derrick Harris exonerated after seven years in prison by California Western clinical program

By Anya Witmer

On October 6, 2020, Derrick Harris was exonerated in a joint effort between the California Innocence Project and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU).[1]

In 2013, Harris was arrested and convicted for an armed robbery, for which he served seven years in prison. The victim identified Harris in a lineup, which ultimately led to his conviction – faulty eyewitness identifications are a leading cause of wrongful convictions.[2] Despite the conviction, Harris persevered in his claim of innocence throughout his time behind bars.[3] While Harris was incarcerated, his co-defendant and a third-party admitted their involvement in the robbery and exculpated Harris. Harris’s co-defendant later signed a declaration that was crucial in Harris’s exoneration.[4]

In 2019, the California Innocence Project joined Harris’s fight for justice. In 2020, Michael Semanchik, managing attorney of the California Innocence Project, brought Harris’s case to the CRU and convinced them to investigate the case further. The CRU’s investigation resulted in their losing confidence in the conviction and a determination that Harris was factually innocent. Following the findings, the Los Angeles District Attorney and the California Innocence Project filed a joint stipulation reversing Harris’s conviction and finding him factually innocent of the robbery.[5]

Harris’s exoneration is the California Innocence Project’s thirty-fourth exoneration since its formation in 1999. The California Innocence Project is a clinical program at California Western School of Law, which is committed to obtaining justice for wrongfully convicted inmates, training law students, and changing the system to mitigate issues in wrongful convictions moving forward. For more information on the California Innocence Project, visit

Students interested in the project can find volunteer information at the California Innocence Project website or follow @ca_innocence on Instagram, and can also join the XONR8 Club (@xonr8cwsl), which is committed to supporting the California Innocence Project and providing students with educational opportunities.

California Innocence Project

“Freeing the innocent. Changing the system.”

[1] Michael Semanchik, 2020. [PRESS RELEASE] Derrick Harris, Wrongfully Convicted of Armed Robbery, Exonerated.


[3] See Note 1.

[4] See Note 1.

[5] See Note 1.

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