Jamal Trulove won a $13.1 million settlement from San Francisco after he spent more than six years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. A jury found that police officers framed him, and now he says that Kamala Harris fought to keep him in jail. Harris was DA and praised the witness who identified him. Here’s what you need to know about Trulove.
1. Trulove Was Awarded a $13 Million Settlement Over Police Officers’ Fabricating Evidence After a Jury Rewarded Him $14 Million in Damages
In March 2019, Jamal Trulove received a $13.1 million settlement from San Francisco, the Los Angeles Times reported. The settlement came after a federal jury awarded Trulove $14.5 million in damages after finding that two homicide inspectors fabricated evidence and withheld evidence that might have proven his innocence. The settlement was approved in a unanimous vote, Fox News reported.
When the settlement was announced, Trulove wrote on Twitter: “And trust me I’m not done with them by a long shot!! After what these cowards of the law did to me, I will lit my freedom ring through every platform I get to show what injustice really looks like. Me!”
Trulove spent six years in maximum security for a crime he didn’t commit.
2. A Witness Who Didn’t Identify Him in an Early Roundup Said He Was a Shooter & Was the Only Evidence Against Him
In 2007, Seu Kuka, 28, was shot nine times on the streets of a public housing project in San Francisco, according to the University of Michigan’s National Registry of Exonerations. Priscilla Lualemaga told police she saw the shooting from a second-floor window. She said Kuka chased a man around a car and then bumed into another man and knocked him down. She said the man who was knocked down chased Kuka and shot him. She identified Joshua Bradley from 34 mugshots as the man Kuka chased. (Bradley was Trulove’s brother.) She never identified Trulove’s photo, which was one of the mugshots.
Two days later, police showed another lineup of photos to Lualemaga and told her the shooter was in the lineup. Lualemage said Trulove “looks like the guy who could have shot (Kuka).” In October 2008, Trulove was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. By the time of his trial in 2010, Lualemaga claimed she was 100 percent sure he was the shooter, the National Registry reported.
Lualemaga said during the trial that she was scared of retaliation so she didn’t identify him at first, and now she was in witness protection. According to Trulove’s story for HuffPost, this included giving her $63,000 to cover years’ worth of housing and food.
The prosecution argued that the jury should be as brave as Lualemaga was, testifying despite threats on her life. The jury found Trulove guilty and he was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
3. On Appeal, a Jury Found that Detectives Fabricated Evidence, Exculpatory Notes Were Erased, & the Witness Was Questioned Numerous Times Before Identifying Trulove
While appealing the case, Trulove’s attorney, Marc Zilversmit, said he found witnesses who said Trulove was not the shooter. The appeals court in 2014 said the prosecution committed misconduct in saying Lualemaga faced threats against her life while not having any evidence to prove it.
On appeal, expert witnesses said Kuka was shot by someone below him, not in an area that Lualemaga could have seen from her window. The jury acquitted Trulove and said the case was “a yarn made out of whole cloth.”
Trulove wrote in an article for HuffPost that the witness was asked several times “Are you sure it isn’t Trulove?” and police didn’t have a recording of the interview because they said their recorder malfunctioned or the tapes were lost. The woman later relented and said he “looked” like the person, Trulove wrote. A young man watched the whole thing happen and later testified about how the witness had been questioned. But a report proving the man was in the room when the witness was questioned wasn’t shared with Trulove’s lawyer.
A federal jury later held in 2017 that two homicide detectives fabricated evidence against Trulove, Fox News reported. They found that the detectives also coerced a witness and withheld information that might have proven Trulove’s innocence.
A jury determined that an eyewitness was only shown a photo of Trulove and no one else when asked to identify the suspect, Fox News reported.
The evidence also indicated that detectives knew of another suspect but didn’t investigate that person. According to Trulove’s HuffPost story, the police officers’ stories contradicted each other, and notes that could prove his innocence were written in pencil that were erased. Those erasures, however, could still be read by a jury when held up to a light.
The four officers from the lawsuit retired and are not facing discipline, Fox News reported.
4. Kamala Harris was DA When Trulove Was Convicted & Praised the Witness’s Bravery
Kamala Harris, who was San Francisco’s District Attorney in 2010, spoke praises about the “brave witness who stepped forward from the crowd,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported at the time. She was running for attorney general at the time, The Appeal reported. The prosecutor in the case was Harris’ deputy prosecutor, Linda Allen, and Harris’s words echoed Allen’s in the trial.
While running for Attorney General, Harris boasted that San Francisco’s conviction rates were the highest in 15 years, CNN reported in 2010.
Trulove says that Harris fought to keep him in jail. He wrote on Twitter: “Kamala Harris talks about how she’s proud of her work as Ca. AG but, never as Head DA of San Francisco, where Evidence of my framing by the SFPD was covered up by ‘HER’ Office just to get a conviction. Then as AG fought to keep the verdict upheld!”
5. Tulsi Gabbard May Have Hinted at This Case in the Democratic Debates
A New York City public defender and media director for The Appeal has pointed out on Twitter that Harris never held the police or prosecutors involved in Trulove’s case responsible.
Harris has praised her prosecutorial record and said that critics were “self-appointed political commentators.”
Tulsi Gabbard, a presidential candidate, questioned Harris’ actions during the Democratic debates on July 31. Gabbard may have been hinting about this case, though it’s not known for certain, when she said: “Senator Harris says she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she’ll be a prosecutor president. But I’m deeply concerned about this record. There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana. She blocked evidence — she blocked evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so. She kept people in prison beyond their sentences to use them as cheap labor for the state of California.”
Gabbard’s comment referenced a man on death row. Trulove has said that he was essentially sentenced to death since he was facing a life sentence, but he was never actually on death row.
Harris later commented to CNN that these were attacks because she was a frontrunner. “This is going to sound immodest, but obviously I’m a top-tier candidate and so I did expect that I’d be on the stage and take some hits tonight. When people are at 0 or 1% or whatever she might be at, so I did expect to take some hits tonight.”