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For the second time, U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel handed Glen “Buddy” Nickerson his freedom on Monday after he spent 19 years in prison for murders he says he did not commit. In a lengthy order, Patel said Nickerson’s trial was fundamentally flawed due to police misconduct and ordered a bail hearing within five days. The state may appeal the ruling. Patel set bail at $250,000 — half of what was set when Patel freed Nickerson over Father’s Day weekend in 2001. That time, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals quickly ordered him back into custody. “The evidence of his innocence is overwhelming,” said solo M. Gerald Schwartzbach, Nickerson’s lawyer. “No reasonable human being could question his innocence, based on the record.” Schwartzbach has been fighting the case for years. He has represented Nickerson pro bono because he once represented one of Nickerson’s co-defendants and says he knows Nickerson is innocent. Deputy Attorney General Gregory Ott said he could not comment on the order, since he had not seen it. Nickerson was one of three people convicted for two 1984 drug-related slayings in Santa Clara County. Nickerson had previously threatened one of the victims. A witness described seeing three men of average build leave the scene. However, Nickerson weighed more than 400 pounds at the time. Also, DNA testing showed that none of the three men matched a trail of blood found leading away from the crime scene. For years, the blood trail remained a mystery. But in 2001, Santa Clara prosecutors tried and convicted a fourth man, William Carl Jahn, of the crime. In jail on unrelated charges, Jahn was linked to the trail of blood through DNA testing. Schwartzbach interviewed Jahn before his trial, and Jahn suggested that Nickerson was not involved in the crime. With the fourth conviction, Schwartzbach said it meant that police had wrongly snared Nickerson in their dragnet. But Ott said investigators always believed there were four perpetrators. Patel openly questioned how witnesses could not notice a 400-pound man at the scene of the crime. In June 2001, upset with what she said were delay tactics by the state and finding that Nickerson was likely to win his case, she set Nickerson free before ruling on the merits of his habeas corpus petition. Two Ninth Circuit judges quickly ordered him rearrested.

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