Kash Register says faith, courage guided him in wait for freedom

Family continues to pick up the pieces after 34 years

Merdies Hayes | 2/20/2014, midnight

He emerged as strong and as resolute in character as he did when he walked in. Last November, Kash Delano Register was released from prison after 34 years when a Los Angeles Superior Court judge found the man had been wrongly convicted of murder and overturned the conviction.

He’s had to organize a new life these past four months, trying to regain his young-adult years which were snatched away in 1979 when a high school classmate testified that he shot and killed an elderly neighbor. Now 53, Register made 11 appearances before the parole board and maintained his innocence each time. The sister of Brenda Anderson, the so-called eye witness, told officials that the whole story was a lie.

“It was just an emotional feeling that just came out of nowhere,” Register said shortly after leaving the Twin Towers facility downtown. “Finally, after 34 years.”

Though Register’s exoneration stems primarily from research and new evidence provided by the Project for the Innocent at Loyola Marymount University, a fellow inmate may equally share in righting the wrong perpetrated in 1979. Keith Chandler was a library clerk at Folsom State Prison who, upon his release, always remembered that Register would profess his innocence, yet would not let dire circumstances ruin his faith and spirit.

“I need your help with the parole board,” Chandler recalled Register telling him. “I want to know how to explain to the board that I’m not crazy when I say ‘I’m innocent’.”

When Chandler left prison, one of his first acts was to write a petition to get a judge to appoint Register with an attorney. He found a team of attorneys and students from Loyola and they presented a new case, this time including testimony from Sheila Vanderkam, the estranged sister of Anderson, who said her sibling lied during her testimony in Register’s trial.

“This was victory,” said 76-year-old Wilma Register about her son’s release. “That was what I have prayed for, for the world to see that this is not the right man. The system can make mistakes, but nobody believes that until it happens to them.”

There was little evidence presented against Register, other than the story that he was allegedly heard arguing in the West L.A. carport of 78-year-old Jack Sasson when five shots rang out and Register was reportedly seen running from the scene. None of the fingerprints found on Sasson’s car matched Register’s and no gun was found. Detectives searched Register’s closet and found a pair of pinstriped pants with a drop of “type O” blood which matched both Register and the dead man.

The prosecution case relied heavily on the testimony of Anderson, then 19, who said she heard the shots and saw a Black man running from the scene. Under oath, Anderson identified Register, though his girlfriend testified she was with him at the time of the incident.

“The only reason he was convicted was some witnesses lied and then the prosecution and police hid some valuable evidence,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levinson who directs the team of law students at Project for the Innocent at the Westchester campus.