The convicted serial killer of ninja murders may be innocent. His conviction has been overturned by the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court will not intervene. Will there be a new trial on these 30 year old serial killings or has an innocent man been in prison for crimes he did not commit?
COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
628 F.3d 486
Filed November 30, 2010
Decision by Judge Paez:
Bobby Joe Maxwell was arrested in April 1979 and charged with murdering ten men in downtown Los Angeles, California. The media dubbed the murders for which Maxwell was charged the “Skid Row Stabber” killings. The prosecution’s best physical evidence linking Maxwell to any of the crime scenes was a palm print on a public bench found near the body of one of the victims. The bench, however, was located in an area Maxwell frequented, and the prosecution was unable to isolate the age of the print. Lacking solid physical evidence, the prosecution rested its case on the testimony of jailhouse informant Sidney Storch.
Storch testified at Maxwell’s trial in 1984. Thereafter, Storch testified for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in no less than six cases, several of them high-profile.
One 1989 Los Angeles Times article reported:
According to Storch’s testimony and statements to police, defendants who made incriminating statements to him include: Bobby Joe Maxwell, convicted in 1984 of two of the “Skid Row Stabber” killings; Tracey Carter, accused of the 1987 robbery and murder of a minister who had stopped to use a pay telephone in South-Central Los Angeles, and Stewart Woodman, charged with engineering the “Ninja“-style killing of Woodman’s parents in the garage of their fashionable Brentwood condominium. Said inmate Daniel Roach: “It seems that half the world just confesses to Sidney Storch.”
Ted Rohrlich & Robert W. Stewart, Jailhouse Snitches: Trading Lies for Freedom, L.A. Times, Apr. 16, 1989, at 1.
John Kryniak, a former Pasadena police officer and Los Angeles District Attorney, testified that in 1986 Storch came forward and offered to testify for the government in the high-profile “Ninja murders” case. Kryniak explained that he decided not to use Storch when he learned that Storch had been placed in the defendant’s cell after the time Storch claimed he was there. Kryniak further testified that he chose not to use Storch’s testimony because he did not believe Storch was telling the truth and because Storch had a very checkered history as an informant.
Storch was one of the most infamous jailhouse informants in Los Angeles history. In particular, as confirmed by Kryniak’s and Marcus’s testimony, Storch had a propensity to go after high profile cases. The “Skid Row Stabber” case would have been just such a case, and Storch’s testimony at Maxwell’s trial is a textbook example of the “booking” method that Storch helped make famous. Based on the evidence brought to light during the lengthy evidentiary hearing, we conclude that the state court’s finding that Storch did not give false testimony was an unreasonable determination of the facts in light of the evidence. We further conclude that there is a reasonable probability that this false testimony affected the jury’s verdict. Because the State convicted Maxwell on the basis of false and material evidence in violation of his due process rights, we direct the district court to grant Maxwell habeas relief on this claim. We further conclude that the prosecution withheld material evidence in violation of Brady.
For more information see:
Dec 2010, CBS: ““Skid Row Stabber” Gets Calif. Conviction Overturned After 30 Years in Prison” by Naimah Jabali-Nash
Jan 2012, LATimes: “High court upholds ruling overturning ‘Skid Row Stabber’ verdicts” by David Savage
Sept 2012, Daily Beast: “Will L.A.’s Skid Row Stabber Get Sprung?” by Christine Pelisek
Recall other Los Angeles Ninja killers