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February 2013

Santa Clara University School of Law's Northern California Innocence Project and Keker and Van Nest Help Free Wrongfully Convicted Oakland Man

In the 13th exoneration in NCIP history, SCU's Northern California Innocence Project and San Francisco law firm Keker and Van Nest helped free wrongfully convicted Oakland man Ronald Ross after nearly seven years in prison.

In the 13th exoneration in NCIP history, Ronald Ross of Oakland is exonerated of attempted murder after serving nearly seven years in prison

SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 22, 2013 – The Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University School of Law and Keker & Van Nest LLP today announced they have successfully petitioned the Alameda County Superior Court to overturn the wrongful conviction of their client, Ronald Ross, for premeditated attempted murder. It is the 13th exoneration -- and the 15th successfully petitioned release -- for NCIP since it was created in 2001.

Mr. Ross’s attorneys argued that newly discovered evidence and proof of false testimony at his original 2006 trial entitled him to a new trial. After three days of evidentiary hearings, the Alameda District Attorney Nancy O’Malley joined Mr. Ross’s petition asking the Court to set aside Mr. Ross’s conviction. On February 20, Alameda Superior Court Judge Jon Rolefson signed an order vacating the prior convictions and sentence, and two days later, the Alameda District Attorney formally dismissed the charges.

Mr. Ross was represented jointly by Linda Starr and Seth Flagsberg of the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University School of Law and by Keker & Van Nest pro bono attorneys Elliot Peters, Jo Golub, Reid Mullen and David Rizk. Keith McArthur of McArthur Investigations led the team’s factual investigation of the case and made the key evidentiary discoveries that led to Mr. Ross’s exoneration.

“We are thrilled to celebrate Ronald’s freedom,” added Linda Starr, legal director of the Northern California Innocence Project. “Eyewitness misidentification is a leading reason for the wrongful convictions of innocent people. With the wrong man behind bars, the true perpetrator was able to continue his violent attacks. Ronald’s case is yet another example of the tragic ramifications mistaken identifications can have for both individuals and the community as a whole. We hope that Mr. Ross’s case will highlight the great need for reform of eyewitness identification practices. ”

“We are tremendously grateful that Ronald is coming home,” said Elliot Peters, partner at Keker & Van Nest LLP. “He is truly innocent. And we express our gratitude to District Attorney O’Malley for agreeing with us that Ronald should be freed, and for her dedication to fairness and the pursuit of justice.”

Case History

On November 8, 2006, Mr. Ross was convicted of the attempted murder of Renardo Williams, who was shot on the front porch of his West Oakland apartment earlier that year. In actuality, a neighbor shot Williams as part of a dispute over a fight between the neighbors’ children.

Ross lived in the Oakland neighborhood where the shooting occurred, but had never met Williams or the actual shooter, and no physical evidence linked him to the crime. Ross ‘s picture was included in a routine photographic line-up shown to witnesses, however, and those witnesses identified him as the shooter. 

Through more than four years of investigation, Mr. Ross’s legal defense team uncovered evidence of false testimony by key trial witnesses, including the victim, and tracked down exculpatory evidence from several new witnesses. Keker & Van Nest LLP attorneys presented this evidence and the case for Mr. Ross’s innocence to the Alameda County District Attorney and the Alameda County Superior Court over three days of hearings.

During those proceedings, the son of the shooter recanted his trial testimony and identified his father,   as the shooter. His father ultimately  acknowledged Ross was not there and had nothing to do with the incident, as did other witnesses located by the defense team. 

NCIP an d Keker & Van Nest LLP will  host a press conference on Monday, February 25 at 11 a.m. at the offices of Keker & Van Nest LLP, 633 Battery Street, San Francisco, California, or via conference call at (877) 699-4804, passcode: 780142.

About Keker & Van Nest LLP
Keker & Van Nest LLP is a 79 lawyer San Francisco litigation firm, whose attorneys are dedicated to the pursuit of justice and the performance of pro bono work. Ronald Ross is the fourth California man serving a life sentence freed by Keker & Van Nest lawyers. Ross now joins John Tennison, Antoine Goff and Caramad Conley as men whose exonerations are the result of Keker & Van Nest’s representation in habeas corpus proceedings. More information is available at

About the Northern California Innocence Project
The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) at Santa Clara University School of Law is a pro bono legal clinical program where law students, attorneys, pro bono counsel, and volunteers work to free wrongfully convicted prisoners. NCIP exonerates the innocent, educates future attorneys, and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions. NCIP promotes substantive legislative and policy reform through data-driven research and policy recommendations aimed at ensuring the integrity of our justice system. For more information, please visit

Media Contacts:
Barbara Abulafia | Keker & Van Nest LLP |  (415) 773-6645 |
Audrey Redmond | NCIP | (408) 554-4790 |
Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | (408) 554-5121 |

Ronald Ross,NCIP