Yesterday, Uriah Courtney was a registered sex offender. Today, his name has been cleared.
Courtney was convicted of kidnapping and raping a 16-year-old girl in Lemon Grove in 2004. In 2010, his case caught the attention of attorneys with the California Innocence Project. The organization works to exonerate people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes.
“I knew I was innocent, and it was great to have somebody come along who thought that, too, and could actually do something about it,” Courtney said.
At a news conference Tuesday, Justin Brooks with the California Innocence Project told Courtney’s story: After the rape, the victim couldn’t give enough information to make a composite sketch of the suspect. However, she did remember a truck that was at the scene, which happened to belong to Courtney’s stepfather.
This linked Courtney to the crime, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
The California Innocence Project eventually convinced the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office to retest evidence from Courtney’s case. They discovered DNA that belonged to another man in their database.
Courtney said the day he found out about the DNA match was “one of the best days of my life.”
Courtney was released from prison in May. A judge formally dismissed the charges against him Monday.
Brooks called it a team effort with the San Diego DA’s office.
“I work all over the state, and I don’t believe this result would have happened in other areas of the state, and it certainly wouldn’t have happened with the speed and efficiency of this office,” Brooks said.
“It’s a common misconception that, as a prosecutor, our job is just to get convictions,” said Brent Neck with the DA’s office. “Our duty is to do justice.”
Despite everything, Courtney said he isn’t bitter toward the victim.
“I’m not going to sit here and dwell on the past and be angry and bitter over what I’ve experienced,” Courtney said. “I’ve learned from it. I’ve grown stronger.”