A wrongfully convicted man is exonerated after serving a 33-year sentence
A California man who spent 33 years in prison for attempted murder has been acquitted and released, the Los Angeles County district attorney announced Thursday.
Daniel Saldana, 55, was convicted in 1990 of opening fire on a car carrying six teenagers leaving a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles. Two students were injured but survived.
The attackers mistook the teenagers for gang members, authorities said.
Saldana was 22 at the time of the shooting and worked full-time as a construction worker. He was one of the three accused in the attack. Saldana was sentenced to 45 years to life in state prison after pleading guilty to six counts of attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle.
Saldana appeared with District Attorney George Gascon at a press conference announcing her acquittal on Thursday. He said, he is grateful to be released.
CBS Los Angeles
“It’s a struggle, waking up every day knowing you’re innocent and here I am in a cell, crying for help,” Saldana said, Southern California News Group reported.
But, “I just knew that one day it was going to come,” Saldana said. According to CBS Los Angeles. “I’m so grateful. I just thank God.”
Gascon’s office began the investigation in February after learning that another convicted assailant told authorities during a 2017 parole hearing that Saldana “was not involved in the shooting in any way and was not present at the time of the incident,” said the DA.
A former deputy district attorney attended the hearing “but apparently did nothing” and failed to share necessary information with Saldana or her attorney, Gascon said.
That led to Saldana spending an additional six years in prison before the DA’s office reopened the case and found him innocent, Gascon said.
The district attorney has not released other details of the case but has apologized to Saldana and her family.
“I know it’s not going to bring you back decades of incarceration,” he said. “But I hope our apology brings some relief as you begin your new life.”
Gascon added: “It’s not only a tragedy to put people in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, but every time an injustice of this magnitude is committed, the real people responsible are still out there committing other crimes.”
And although disappointed that the information took so long to reach his office, Gascon stressed the importance that justice was ultimately served, CBS Los Angeles noted.
“As prosecutors, our duty is not just to convict but to seek justice,” he said in a statement. “When someone is wrongfully convicted, it is a failure of our justice system and it is our responsibility to correct that mistake. We owe it to the person who was wrongfully convicted and to the public that justice was served.”