Wash. man exonerated after decade in prison

Wash. man exonerated after decade in prison

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by NATALIE SWABY / KING 5 News

KTVB.COM

Posted on December 24, 2013 at 4:41 PM

KING COUNTY, Wash. - Brandon Olebar, 30, describes freedom as the best present anyone could receive.

"This is the best holiday I have ever had in my life," said Olebar.
 
His wife Melissa added, "I kept telling him this is our year,  2013. You are going to be home one way or another. I know it."
 
Now Melissa is able to hold her husband's hand after he spent more than 10 years of a 16-and-a-half-year sentence in prison for crimes Olebar says he did not commit.

He was released from incarceration on Friday night thanks to Innocence Project Northwest and Staff Attorney Fernanda Torres.

"Memory can be tainted, memory can be wrong," said Torres.

Torres points to mistaken witness identification as the key problem with the case against Olebar.
 
Olebar's sister's boyfriend was the victim in a 2003 robbery and burglary. The victim identified Olebar in a photo montage and accused him of being with a group of people who pistol whipped and beat him unconscious.

Olebar says at the time he thought, "I should be able to walk free from this."
 
He adds he told police and the jury that he had nothing to do with the crime. But the jury was not convinced. Olebar along with his sister and his uncle were sentenced in the case.
 
Wife Melissa says she read through all the police reports.

"It just didn't add up for me. It didn't make sense," she said.

She reached out to the group, Innocence Project Northwest, and in 2011 two University of Washington law students, Nikki Carsley and Kathleen Kline, began investigating. Eventually, they were able to obtain sworn statements.

"These people not only confirmed that they were there and their stories corroborated each other about what happened, but they also confirmed that Brandon was not involved," said Torres.

The Prosecutor's office agreed the new evidence cast enough doubts that "the case should be dismissed in the interest of justice."

That decision from Prosecutor Dan Satterberg led to the Friday evening release from lockup for Olebar.

"As soon as I got out it was tears of joy," said Olebar. "This is the best present anyone can get."
 
Learn more about Innocence Project Northwest here: http://www.law.washington.edu/Clinics/IPNW/

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