On June 20, 1996, Kevin Lee Green left the Honorable Robert Fitzgerald’s courtroom—after 17 years confined in a California prison—finally a free man.
On September 30, 1979, Kevin Lee Green went out to get a hamburger, leaving his pregnant wife Dianna at home. When he returned around 20 minutes later, he found his wife had been attacked and beaten. Dianna was left in a coma for 1 month following the attack due to a blow to the middle of her forehead. She was 9 months pregnant with Kevin’s child, and their unborn daughter died in the womb. When Dianna awoke from the coma, she suffered from substantial memory loss and had “considerable brain damage” (Assembly Bill, 1999).
Kevin Green told police he left the apartment where the two lived to get a hamburger, and the employee at the hamburger stand testified that Green had been there. Police found that the food Green had in his possession was still warm when they arrived. These statements and evidence, however, did not prevent them from charging Green for the murder of his unborn child and the attempted murder of his wife.
On October 2, 1980, an Orange County Superior Court jury convicted Kevin Lee Green of one count of second degree murder, one count of attempted murder, and two counts of assault with a deadly weapon.
The prosecution’s main witness was Dianna Green herself. In fact, because there was a complete lack of corroborative evidence, the entire case rested on Dianna’s testimony. Although she had lost much of her memory and suffered incredible brain damage, Dianna testified that her husband had struck her in the head that night, serving as the only witness against Kevin Green. Psychiatrist Dr. Martin Brenner found Dianna a reliable witness, enabling her to take the stand. The defense’s request to have an independent psychiatrist evaluate her mental state was denied. While on the stand, Dianna found it difficult to spell her own last name.
Never did Kevin Green admit guilt, maintaining his innocence throughout the trial and the years he would spend in jail. He testified that upon his return home from the hamburger stand, he saw a man in a dark van quickly leaving the crime scene, but police did not consider this important enough to investigate.
On November 7, 1980, for allegedly attacking his wife and killing his unborn child, a judge sentenced Green to 15 years to life in prison. Although he knew that his chances for parole were higher if he expressed regret for his “crimes,” Green held to his assertion of innocence throughout the entire time he was in prison. His refusal to lie led to his being denied parole four separate times.
When Dianna was attacked, Kevin was a corporal in the United States Marine Corps, and he intended to make military service his career, as his father had done. The Marine Corps gave Green a less than honorable discharge, which further penalized him as it prevented him from serving in the military again or from receiving retirement and other military benefits.
Vaginal slides taken from Dianna Green after the attack showed the presence of spermatozoa. Kevin Green tried, while in prison, to raise enough money to take a DNA test to prove the evidence left in Dianna did not match his DNA. This would allow the case to be reopened. He was never able to afford the test, and although he had passed at least one polygraph test before the trial, investigators refused to reopen the case.
In 1982, an appeal in district court affirmed the conviction, so Green petitioned the State of California Supreme Court for a hearing.
When the DNA offender database was created in California, examiners discovered that the DNA profile in the spermatozoa found in Dianna Green was a match to another felon. Gerald Parker gave a full confession and admitted guilt to five other murders. Parker, also known as the serial killer called the “Bedroom Basher,” was responsible for the attack on Dianna Green and the death of the Greens’ unborn daughter.
Kevin Lee Green was granted habeas corpus and immediately released from prison on June 20, 1996, by the Honorable Robert Fitzgerald, Judge of the Superior Court for the County of Orange. The same day, “the Honorable Robert Fitzgerald further found and ordered that Kevin Lee Green was factually innocent of all charges and that all allegations against him relating to the September 30, 1979, attack on Dianna Green were untrue” (Assembly Bill, 1999).
Green had spent approximately 17 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. Kevin Lee Green entered prison at age 21, and was exonerated when he was 37. He was unable to attend the funerals of both his grandmothers and his grandfather because he was incarcerated at the times of their deaths. His sister and brother both married while Green was in prison.
In October 1999, California Governor Gray Davis awarded Green $620,000 as compensation for his time spent wrongfully imprisoned. Currently, Green lives in Jefferson City, Missouri, and is trying to rebuild his life.
California State Legislature. (1995, October 5). Assembly Bill No. 110. Retrieved March 21, 2007, from http://info.sen.ca.gov
Innocence Project. (n.d.) Kevin Green. Retrieved March 21, 2007, from http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/162.php
Williams, M. (2001, February 22). Following other states’ lead, Missouri lawmakers consider funding post-conviction DNA testing. Retrieved March 21, 2007, from http://www.mdn.org/2001/STORIES/DNA.htm