Calif. Murder Suspect Accidentally Released From L.A. Jail Because of Paperwork Error

Steve Lawrence Wright, 37, is accused of a gang-related slaying in Pasadena in 2011, but he walked free over the weekend after three Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department employees overlooked corrected information handwritten at the bottom of his paperwork.

Steve Lawrence Wright 
Steve Lawrence Wright  Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department 

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department accidentally released a murder suspect over the weekend because of a paperwork correction that was overlooked, the Los Angeles Times reports

Steve Lawrence Wright, 37, the suspect in a 2011 Pasadena gang-related killing, walked free from custody at the Inmate Reception Center Saturday afternoon because of a mistake that went unnoticed until Sunday night. 

Wright had been in custody facing a murder charge when he was sentenced last week to five days in jail for a contempt-of-court conviction that he obtained while awaiting trial, sheriff’s-department Cmdr. Keith Swensson explained to the Times. 

When Wright was transferred to the Inmate Reception Center from court, the paperwork he had with him had an error: The docket number for his contempt-of-court case was written in the box where the number for his murder case was meant to be. Thus, the paperwork made it look as if he were to be released Saturday, instead of being held without bail pending trial, Swensson added. 

The clerk dealing with the paperwork corrected the error, adding a handwritten note at the bottom of the form, but somehow three sheriff’s-department employees overlooked it, releasing Wright on Saturday at around 1 p.m. No one noticed until Sunday at 9:30 p.m., the Times notes, when the district attorney’s office inquired if he were still in custody. 

“This is just one of those things,” Swensson said, adding that ensuring that inmates are not accidentally released is “a cornerstone of our reform efforts.”

Jail officials are planning to launch “a critical incident review to make necessary improvements to the system.”

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

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