Wrongly convicted men who served 16 years for Lancaster shooting declared innocent

Friday, April 21, 2023
2 men wrongly convicted for 2004 Lancaster shooting declared innocent
Two men who served 16 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of attempted murder for a 2004 Lancaster shooting were declared innocent by a judge.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Dupree Glass and Juan Rayford were freed from prison in 2020 after serving 16 years, but a judge Thursday officially declared their innocence.

"I'm not big for words. But today is a wonderful day. For 20 years we've been living this nightmare. It's finally over. We can go on with our lives," Glass said outside the courthouse.

Glass and Rayford are now in their 30s. They were convicted in 2004 of firing shots into a Lancaster home during a fight.

No one was hurt, but at the time prosecutors successfully argued it under the "kill zone" theory, alleging they planned on killing all 11 people around them.

That theory led them to 11 consecutive life sentences of attempted murder. But the case was weak, their current defense team says.

They went back to court Thursday to make their innocence official.

"I find that Mr. Rayford and Mr. Glass were not shooters, nor did they aid and abet the actual shooters," Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge H. Clay Jacke said from his bench in court.

The verdicts for Glass and Rayford concluded a new trial that began in October after a state appeals court panel vacated their convictions and they were freed in 2020. The proceedings included a dramatic confession by the actual shooter, Chad Brandon McZeal, a gang member who's serving a life sentence for murder in an unrelated case, the defense team said.

Jacke's decision was "a long, detailed ruling exonerating them for any and all crimes" related to the shooting, said defense attorney Eric Dubin.

"Today the judge righted a wrong," Dubin said. "In my over 30 years of trying cases, I've never experienced such a magical moment where I'm able to see justice come to light so vividly."

Rayford and Glass are trying to start over and catch up on life.

"There was so much time taken away from them that they could not get back. But our attorneys continued to fight, but not only the attorneys, but they did as well," said Tiffany Walker, Glass' sister.

Rayford, holding his young daughter in his arms, said they've been fighting for justice for a long time.

"I'm happy and I'm grateful," Rayford said. "It's a humbling experience."

Glass and Rayford plan to file a lawsuit against the county as soon as next month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.