Combined, the Clients Have Spent More Than 78 Years In Prison For Crimes They Did Not Commit

Sacramento, March 27, 2020 – On Friday, March 27, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom granted clemency to four California Innocence Project (CIP) clients: JoAnn Parks, Suzanne Johnson, Rodney McNeal, and David Jassy.  Two of the clients, Johnson and Jassy, are expected to be released immediately. The others will be released following parole hearings. All four come as COVID-19 begins to spread throughout the California prison system.  CIP has been working on the cases for years.      

In 2006, CIP began investigating the JoAnn Parks case.  Parks, who has been in prison since 1993 for a fire that killed her 3 children, has always maintained her innocence.  CIP presented evidence in 2015 that discredited the state’s theory of arson. Parks was sentenced to life without parole, but will now be eligible to appear in front of the parole board.

In 2007, CIP presented Rodney McNeal’s claim of innocence in the San Bernardino Superior Court.  McNeal was at work at the time his wife was murdered. McNeal has always maintained his innocence.  After investigating the case for several years, CIP uncovered evidence that another man committed the murder.  That same alternate suspect has been convicted of two other murders.

Suzanne Johnson’s case involved an infant who accidentally fell out of a high chair and succumbed to a fatal head injury.  Johnson was convicted of assault on a child causing death under a theory of Shaken Baby/Shaken Slam Syndrome. Doctors testified Johnson’s version of events was impossible.  Today’s science, over twenty years later, supports Johnson’s version of what happened.  

CIP began looking into the David Jassy case in 2019.  Jassy was convicted of murder following an altercation.  Although Jassy admitted to punching the victim, he maintained he did not intentionally strike the victim with his car, as the prosecution had argued. The Governor recognized that the tragic incident was accidental in the clemency announcement.

“I’m thrilled,” said Justin Brooks, Director of the California Innocence Project and a Professor of Law at California Western School in San Diego.  “This was absolutely the right decision by the Governor and I am very grateful that he made it. We’ve been advocating for these clients for many years based on the strong evidence of their innocence.  Combine that with the threat to their health by the pandemic and there is no doubt they all deserve their freedom.”

Visit our website to learn more about the cases: Suzanne Johnson, Rodney McNeal, David Jassy, and JoAnn Parks.

The Governor’s press release can be found here.  The clemency certificates can be found here.


About the California Innocence Project

The California Innocence Project is a California Western School of Law clinical program dedicated to the release of wrongfully convicted inmates and providing an outstanding educational experience for students enrolled in the clinic. The California Innocence Project receives approximately 1,500 claims from inmates each year and has freed 30 wrongfully convicted clients since its inception. Read more at: