A California Latino man who spent 33 years in prison for attempted murder has been found not guilty and released, the Los Angeles County district attorney announced Thursday.
Daniel Saldana, 55, was convicted in 1990 of shooting at a car carrying six teenagers who were leaving a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles. Two students were injured but survived.
According to authorities, the attackers mistook the teens for gang members.
Daniel Saldana, foreground, with Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón during a press conference announcing his exoneration after 33 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, on May 25, 2023 in Los Angeles.Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag
Saldana was 22 years old at the time of the shooting and worked full time as a construction worker. He was one of three men charged with the attack. Convicted of six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle, he ended up being sentenced to between 45 years and life in state prison.
Appearing with District Attorney George Gascón at a news conference announcing his exoneration Thursday, Saldana said he was grateful to have been released.
“It is a struggle, every day waking up knowing that you are innocent and here I am locked in a cell, crying for help,” Saldana confessed, according to the local news agency Southern California News Group.
“I am very happy that this day has come,” he added.
[Un policía dispara en el pecho a un niño de 11 años que llamó al 911 para pedir ayuda: “¿Por qué me sucedió esto a mí?”]
Gascón said his office began investigating the case after learning in February that another convicted shooter told authorities during a 2017 parole hearing that Saldana “was not involved in the shooting in any way and was not present during the incident.” ”.
A former assistant district attorney was present at the hearing, “but apparently did nothing” and did not share information about Saldana’s presumed innocence with authorities or his attorney as required, Gascón said.
This caused Saldana to spend another six years behind bars before the Prosecutor’s Office reopened the case and found him not guilty, Gascón said.
The prosecutor did not reveal other details of the case, but apologized to Saldana and his family.
“I know this won’t give you back the decades you endured in prison,” he said, “but I hope our apology brings you some small comfort as you start your new life.”
“Not only is it a tragedy to force people into prison for a crime they did not commit, but every time an injustice of this magnitude occurs, the real perpetrators are still out there to commit other crimes,” the prosecutor said.
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