The Los Angeles County District Attorney announced Thursday that a California man who spent 33 years in prison for attempted murder was acquitted and released.
Daniel Saldana, 55, was convicted in 1990 of shooting at a car containing six teenagers as they were exiting a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles. Two students were injured but survived.
Authorities said the attackers mistook the teens for gang members.
Saldana was 22 years old at the time of the incident and was working full-time as a construction worker. He was one of three people charged with the assault. Saldana was convicted of six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting an occupied vehicle and was sentenced to 45 years in prison for life.
Saldana attended a press conference announcing his acquittal on Thursday with District Attorney George Gascon. He said he was grateful for his release.
“Every day I wake up and know I’m innocent and here I am in solitary confinement, screaming for help,” Saldana said, according to a report by the Southern California News Group. .
But “I knew it was going to happen one day,” Saldana said. According to CBS Los Angeles. “Thank you very much. I just thank God.”
Gascon’s office said in February that another convicted assailant told authorities at a parole hearing in 2017 that Saldana “was not involved in any way in the shooting and was at the scene during the incident.” The prosecutor’s office said it launched an investigation after learning that he had made a statement that he was not at home.
Mr Gascon said the former deputy district attorney attended the hearing but “clearly did nothing” and did not share exoneration information with Mr Saldana or his lawyers when necessary.
As a result, Saldana will spend another six years in prison until the public prosecutor’s office reopens the case and acquits him, Gascon said.
The district attorney did not provide other details of the incident, but apologized to Saldana and her family.
“I know this won’t bring back the decades I endured in prison,” he said. “However, we hope that our apology will give you some comfort as you begin your new life.”
Mr Gascon added, “Not only is it tragic to force people into prison for crimes they didn’t commit, but every time an injustice of this magnitude occurs, the real culprits are still on the scene. You are committing a different crime,” he added.
And while Gascon was disappointed that the information took so long to reach his office, he stressed the importance of justice being served in the end, CBS Los Angeles notes.
“Our duty as prosecutors is not simply 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 wrong. is obligated to be fulfilled.”