20 Years In Prison after Wrongful Conviction: Kiera's Story

Kiera Newsome was sitting at her desk at school in South Central Los Angeles when a fatal shooting took place 10 miles away.
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Nearly 20 years ago, Kiera Newsome was sitting at her desk at school in South Central Los Angeles when a fatal shooting took place 10 miles away. Two years later, Kiera found herself convicted for a murder she couldn’t possibly have committed.

Finally freed in 2020, Kiera tells her story on one of the most powerful episodes of "Wrongful Conviction" with Jason Flom ever…

If the initial details of Kiera’s case sound unbelievable, her full story is even more astounding. On April 16, 2001, around 11:30 a.m., a car with three young African-American women — members of the 11 Deuce Hoovers gang — stopped in front of a house. Standing in front of the house was a group of men who were members of a rival gang, the Blocc Crips. One of the women got out of the car, knocked on the door of the house, briefly engaged with the men, then opened fire on her way back to the car and once she got inside.

One man, Christian Henton, was fatally wounded, while a bullet grazed Shawntaye Allen’s torso. Witnesses’ description of the shooter was clear: she was an African-American woman with a lazy eye, a tattoo of a name on her upper right thigh, and was wearing an all-red outfit.

At the same time the shooting occurred, Kiera Newsome was sitting in class at Crenshaw SEA Charter School. The school had stringent policies requiring student to sign in and out, small class sizes, continuous adult supervision, and locked exterior doors operated only by administrators. Kiera had been placed at Crenshaw — typically a school for students with behavioral issues — for her protection after her boyfriend had been murdered in a gang shooting. She was wearing the required Crenshaw school uniform of black pants and a white polo shirt.

Kiera did happen to have a tattoo on her right thigh, albeit too high up to be visible while wearing shorts. Despite a solid alibi, not matching the perpetrator’s description, and having no driver’s license, this was enough for law enforcement to target her for a crime that they claimed was retaliation for her boyfriend’s murder four months before. Police concocted a fantastical scenario that had Kiera somehow leaving the school, changing clothes, driving 30 minutes to commit the shooting, and then returning to school unnoticed.

With the help of Chris Hawthorne (founder, director and clinical professor at the Juvenile Innocence and Fair Sentencing Clinic at the Loyola Law School), Kiera’s teacher, Rebecca Woodruff, and Kiera herself, Jason Flom revisits the events of that day. They discuss the twisted world of gang violence, Kiera’s long battle for justice, her abuse at the hands of police, and being targeted in prison by Dawnyell Flynn (a.k.a. “Astro”), the woman who by most accounts actually committed the crime.

Flom, the founder/CEO of Lava Records and a criminal justice advocate for the past 30 years, has been personally involved in the cases of hundreds of wrongfully convicted people. Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom is produced by Lava For Good Podcasts in association with Signal Co. No1.

Listen to Kiera’s story on www.wrongfulconvictionpodcast.com or on all popular podcast streaming platforms.

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