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Court clears California man of drug crime after 6 years in prison

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POSTED April 27, 2014 8:12 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal appeals court has overturned the drug conviction of a San Francisco man after he had served out a prison sentence of nearly six years.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the DNA linking Gale Joseph Young wasn’t shown to be reliable, tossing his conviction for possessing crack cocaine. It didn’t come soon enough, his attorney said.

“He served his time, and he can’t get that back” attorney Nathaniel Garrett told the newspaper.

It began when Young was questioned by police in June 2008 about an unrelated case. He was released after being strip-searched, which revealed no drug evidence on his body. Young was in his 20s, the newspaper reports, and had a criminal record from his youth.

After he left the station, officers found a plastic bag on the floor containing 14 grams of the drug. DNA tests performed on the bag linked the evidence to unknown women, and a small fraction, called a “low-copy number DNA,” matched a male.

Prosecutors used an expert witness at the trial who said Young couldn’t be excluded as the person who left the DNA on the bag. Young was convicted in 2012, but he was jailed since 2008. His sentence amounted to 5 years and 10 months. The appellate court found the evidence too weak to sustain the conviction.

Garrett said his client is now on free on parole and has a supportive family. The defense attorneys said he hopes that after his client’s experience that the federal courts will more closely scrutinize such cases based on DNA evidence.

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