CVIndependent

Sat08082020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

26 Aug 2016

Finally Free: The California Innocence Project Gets Kimberly Long's Murder Conviction Overturned

Written by 
Kimberly Long (center) with her California Innocence Project legal team. Kimberly Long (center) with her California Innocence Project legal team. Courtesy of the California Innocence Project

Kimberly Long was the subject of the Independent’s June 2015 cover story, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”; she was in prison after being convicted of murdering her boyfriend.

Long insisted she was innocent—and her case caught the attention of the California Innocence Project.

“I know I’m going home,” Long told the Independent last year. “It’s just a matter of time. … I know I’m coming home, and I have the utmost faith in the California Innocence Project—and faith in God.”

Long’s faith was rewarded: On June 10, Riverside Superior Court Judge Patrick Magers reversed Long’s conviction, ruling that Long’s public defender did not provide adequate representation. She was released on bail, after being in prison since 2009.

“I couldn’t believe it was actually happening,” Long told the Independent in a recent interview. “Being released from the jail, walking out to fresh air and no correctional officers, it was a different kind of feeling. It’s been absolutely fantastic since that day.”

However, Long’s freedom is not assured: Prosecutors may try her again, for what would be the third time.

On Oct. 5, 2003, Long spent the day bar-hopping with her boyfriend, Oswaldo “Ozzy” Conde and their mutual friend, Jeff Dills. Around 11 p.m. that night, they returned to their home in Corona and got into a fight. Long left with Dills to cool off, she says, and when she returned home a few hours later, she found Conde on their sofa—he had been brutally murdered.

Long was tried twice. The first trial ended in a hung jury, with nine of the 12 jurors voting to acquit. Her second ended in a guilty verdict for second-degree murder—even though the judge stated he would have acquitted her.

Alissa Bjerkhoel, Long’s attorney from the California Innocence Project, explained what comes next for Long.

“After we get a conviction reversed, prosecutors have two options, and they can do one or both,” said Bjerkhoel. “The first thing is they’re going to appeal the decision. They’re going to do that, and it’s going to put Kim in this legal limbo for about two years or so, until the appeal is resolved. Then after that, they have the option to put her on trial again for a third time. Right now, they’re telling us they’re going to do both. We’re hopeful that might change in the future, but they seem to be taking this conviction reversal a bit hard.”

Still, for Long and the California Innocence Project, the verdict reversal was a pleasant surprise. Bjerkhoel told me last year she expected Long’s case to be an uphill battle.

“I was worried at first, because we’ve lost this case so many times,” Bjerkhoel said. “And we’ve lost it with really unfortunate decisions. We’d say she didn’t do it, and the evidence showed she didn’t do it, but unfortunately, we’d hear, ‘You don’t meet our standards,’ or, ‘Our hands are tied, and that’s that.’

“The standards to get your conviction reversed in California are crazy. We were really lucky the judge we had was the original trial judge: (Magers) was familiar with the case and all the evidence, and sat through two trials already. … (That) really benefitted us, because he was the most knowledgeable about the case and knew how problematic it was. We tell Kim she’s a lucky one: ‘You’re one who got out, and it’s hard to do.’’’

Despite Bjerkhoel’s concerns, Long said she’s confident about her future.

“I don’t even see myself standing trial again, and I don’t even see a negative outcome in this case from here on out. I don’t see it happening,” Long said. “In my head, I see it as already over with, except for this little part.”

Long said she’s lucky compared to some of the other people the California Innocence Project has helped exonerate.

“I haven’t spent as much time in prison as others have,” she said. … “Technology probably changed a little bit, but I think what’s different is the fact my kids are older now, and I’m trying to find my purpose in life today. Many years ago, I was a mom, and I was helping them do their homework, taking them to baseball practice and whatnot. Now it’s not like that: They’re 18 and 23, and they have their own lives. Now I’m a 40-year-old woman trying to find my place in life.”

Long is facing problems that all ex-inmates go through.

“It’s just trying to get re-established. If you want to work again, you need a vehicle to do so—plus you need to have health insurance,” she said. “There are so many things you need to re-establish in your life. I was very independent before, and now I’m dependent on people, and that’s a very hard place to be.”

Even though she currently has no conviction on her record, Long said she’s still finding it hard to find employment.

“I actually went for a job interview to be a paralegal, and what I ran into is that there is a big gap on my resume,” said Long, a former nurse. “That’s what everyone wants to know about: why I’m not working as a nurse, and why I want to be a paralegal. I’m not a good liar, and I can’t lie about it. I ended up having to tell this guy everything about me. Needless to say, I didn’t get a call back, and that part is rough. I’m looking at ex-felon job sites when I’m not even an ex-felon.”

Meanwhile, Bjerkhoel and her team are working to keep Long free.

“We knew about the hearing since last fall,” Bjerkhoel said about the June 10 court date. “We did the hearing; Kim was released, and now we’re going into the appeal process.”

4 comments

  • Comment Link Clinton Hewitt Monday, 06 April 2020 10:25 posted by Clinton Hewitt

    In regards to Sam's post. I don't mean any disrespect to police officers, but if you believe that she is guilty because she convinced him to do the murder based on the evidence that is there then you must not have been a good police officer. If he and her were in on it together why would she have ever returned to the house in the first place? Why would she have called 911? If they were in it together, then them going back to his place and waiting to take her home would have worked much better. Then they both would have had an alibi that was as concrete as the victims ex-girlfriend had. This is a case where police officers make a decision right away about who is guilty instead of looking at all possibilities. I even heard on a interviewed video of one of the detectives that because she was the one who called 911 she automatically had to be looked at as a suspect until they could prove otherwise. Now doesn't that go against the whole "innocent until proven guilty" moto? She was wearing the same clothes the whole time and had no blood on her. If Jeff was guilty of actually committing the murder, based on listening to his interrogation I don't believe he would have been smart enough to hide everything properly from the police. The police had nothing on Kimberly Long other than a supposed time frame by a man who was more worried about himself so he threw her under the bus. In my opinion all evidence points towards the ex-girlfriend. Who the victim had taken a restraining order against, who sent a terrible letter to Kimberly Long, who vandalized the victims truck and Kimberly's front door. The ex-girlfriend who's alibi that night was that she was with a guy on a date, dinner, and a 90-minute stop at a hotel. Which the hotel has no record of her or her "guy" staying that night. The hotel manager just conveniently states that sometimes when people pay in cash their names aren't recorded. Oh, and the polygraph that Kimberly Long passed, Cynthia (the ex-girlfriend) did not. Yes polygraph's aren't concrete evidence but come on, obviously this all pointed way more towards the ex-girlfriend than to Kimberly Long. The only thing Kimberly Long was guilty of was making poor choices while under the influence and messing around with another guy during a small and dumb argument. What is a travesty is that so much can be missed by law enforcement like it has on this case, and an innocent woman is locked up while they real killer(s) are free.

    Report
  • Comment Link Sam Saturday, 16 February 2019 02:15 posted by Sam

    I’m sorry, but as retired police officer and investigator, this woman is guilty. I’m not in any way associated with this case as I was employed by an Alabama law enforcement agency.
    It is unfortunate that the man she slept with that night died and was unable to be properly questioned. I speculate that there’s a great chance she may have convinced him to do the murder. I think there’s a chance that this would’ve been brought into light.
    In my opinion, this woman deserve to be in prison and it’s a travesty that she’s out enjoying her freedom while the victim and his family are robbed of justice.

    Report
  • Comment Link Raquel Hudson Monday, 19 September 2016 10:16 posted by Raquel Hudson

    Did the investigators ever check to see if Kim was still wearing the clothes she had been seen in at the clubs, or had she changed clothes.

    Report
  • Comment Link Diana Monday, 29 August 2016 22:30 posted by Diana

    Once Long is done with all these court matters & is found not guilty will hee record be erased or will all this still ne on her record?

    Report

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.