HOUSTON—With a long list of assault and armed-robbery convictions, LaDondrell Montgomery is no angel by any stretch of the imagination.
But last month, when he took the stand in his own defense in an armed-robbery trial, neither he nor his attorney mentioned that he was in jail on assault charges when the crime occurred.
That fact didn’t come to light until two weeks after a jury sentenced him to life in prison. A judge has now dismissed the conviction and sentence.
"It makes me angry, because innocent people out there are in prison right now," said Earnestine Wells, Montgomery’s mother. "They’re throwing them in prison, and they’re saying they’re convicted of a crime they didn’t do."
The crime Montgomery didn’t do took place at a T Mobile store in December of 2009. Police say an armed man entered the store at closing time, demanded money and struck a female clerk several times in the head with his fist. It just so happens that Montgomery was in the Harris County Jail at the time on an assault charge.
"That information, everyone would assume, would come from the person in custody," said Alison Baimbridge, Assistant Harris County Attorney.
When asked if it was because Montgomery had been in and out of custody so much he simply lost track of the date, his attorney had this to say.
"It would be fair," said defense attorney Ronald Ray. "It would be fair to say that."
Judge Mark Kent Ellis described the oversight as mindboggling, calling both sides in the case spectacularly incompetent.
"That doesn’t bother me," said Ray. "I think I’ve done my job. I freed a man from a life sentence, so if you want to say I’m incompetent for doing that, then I accept it with a smile."
One person not smiling: LaDrondell Montgomery, who’s still in custody with five cases pending, four of them aggravated robbery cases. He’s currently being held without bond, with a trial date in May.