Daniel Saldana was convicted in 1990 of attempted murder, but evidence revealed he was not even at the scene.
A California man who spent 33 years in prison for attempted murder has been found innocent and released after it emerged he was not even at the scene of the attack.
Daniel Saldana, now 55, was convicted in 1990 of opening fire on a car exiting a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles. There were six teenagers inside and two of them were injured but survived.
The attackers mistook the teens for gang members, authorities said.
Saldana, who was 22 at the time of the shooting and worked full-time as a construction worker, was one of three men charged in the attack. Convicted of six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting an occupied vehicle, Saldana was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison.
Saldana appeared with District Attorney George Gascón at a press conference announcing his exoneration on Thursday. He said he was grateful to be released.
“It’s a struggle, every day waking up knowing you’re innocent and I’m locked in a cell, crying out for help,” Saldana said, according to the Southern California News Group.
“I’m so happy this day has come,” he added.
Investigations into Saldana’s case began in February after the District Attorney’s Office learned that another convicted assailant told authorities during a 2017 parole hearing that Saldana “was in no way involved in the shooting and that he was not present during the incident,” Gascón said.
A former assistant district attorney was present at the hearing “but apparently did nothing” and did not share the exonerating information with Saldana or his attorney as required, he added.
As a result, Saldana spent six more years in prison before the prosecutor’s office reopened the case and declared him innocent, Gascón said.
The district attorney did not reveal further details about the case, but he did apologize to Saldana and her family.
“I know it won’t bring back the decades you endured in prison,” he said. “But I hope our apologies bring you some comfort as you begin your new life.”
Gascón added: “Not only is it a tragedy to force people to jail for a crime they didn’t commit, but whenever an injustice of this magnitude occurs, those truly responsible are always there to help. commit other crimes.”