In March 1998, Anthony Galati was found murdered on the side of a road in Sacramento County, with two gunshot wounds to the head and his body covered in abrasions.
Puckett, who had no ties to the victim other than a brief visit to the same acquaintence’s apartment on the day of the murder, was implicated in the murder one year later when the true perpetrator—an incarcerated man named Israel Sept—became fearful that he was going to be discovered through DNA testing. Sept approached a prison guard claiming to have information about Galati’s murder. He partially confessed while also implicating Puckett, in hopes of gaining sentencing and other personal benefits.
Even as Sept was charged with the murder and robbery of Galati in 2000 and pled guilty in exchange for an 11-year sentence, police investigators continued pursuing Puckett. Based on a vague identification and despite no physical evidence tying him to the crime, police arrested Puckett in April 2001.
There were numerous glaring problems with Puckett’s prosecution—none of which would be presented at trial.
- A recantation – Sept recanted his original story before Puckett’s trial, telling Puckett’s defense counsel that Puckett was blameless. The jury did not hear the recantation.
- An alibi – At an evidentiary hearing, Puckett’s sister testified that Puckett was at a barbecue at the time of the murder. This alibi was given to Puckett’s trial attorney but the jury never heard it.
- Evidence – Significant evidence implicated others besides Sept in the murder-robbery, but not Puckett. The jury did not hear that evidence.
- An accomplice – An accomplice to Sept confessed participation to his estranged wife and said that Puckett had not participated. Also, NCIP was able to establish with newly discovered evidence that the accomplice had possessed a gun matching the description of a gun used to pistol whip the victim as well as other items likely stolen from Galati. Puckett’s jury heard none of this.
Nonetheless, Puckett was convicted of murder and robbery in a jury trial in which deliberations lasted almost as long as the trial itself. On March 14, 2002, 18 years ago almost exactly, he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Throughout his incarceration, he has always steadfastly maintained his innocence.
Through gumshoe detective work, NCIP uncovered 700 pages of materials which the government had withheld from Puckett, all of which corroborated Sept’s recantation, implicated others in the murder-robbery, and documented impeachment evidence against the prosecution’s trial witnesses.
On March 3, 2020 the Superior Court of California of Sacramento County overturned the murder conviction of Jeremy Puckett and on March 13, 2020 the Sacramento District Attorney’s office dropped all charges and Mr. Puckett walked free.