Los Angeles A federal appeals court is demanding the immediate release of a man found to have been wrongly convicted of murder 24 years ago on the testimony of a jailhouse informant.
In an order handed down Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also told District Judge Dickran M. Tevrizian to determine whether law enforcement officials should be held in contempt of court for refusing to release Thomas Lee Goldstein.
Goldstein, 55, has remained in custody despite findings by two federal judges and a federal appeals panel that he was wrongly convicted.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court ordered that Goldstein be released without bail in December. State prison officials instead turned him over to Los Angeles County jailers.
The 9th Circuit demanded Goldstein's immediate release, saying it found serious problems with his original trial, especially the use of informant Edward F. Fink.
Fink, a heroin user with a lengthy criminal record, had testified in more than 10 cases that people had confessed crimes to him while they shared his jail cell.
Goldstein was a college student when John McGinest was killed by shotgun fire on a Long Beach street on Nov. 3, 1979.
Goldstein, who lived in a rented garage near the murder scene, was arrested two weeks later. No physical evidence linked Goldstein to the killing and the murder weapon was never found. Prosecutors relied on the statements of Fink and witness Loran B. Campbell, both of whom are now dead.