‘So happy’: Man declared innocent after 33 years in US jail

Daniel Saldana was convicted of attempted murder in 1990, but evidence emerged that he was not even at the scene.

A California man who served 33 years in prison for attempted murder has been declared innocent and released after he was found 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.

Authorities said the attackers mistook the teens for gang members.

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 at an occupied vehicle, Saldana was sentenced to 45 years to life in state prison.

Saldana appeared on Thursday with prosecutor George Gascón at a press conference to announce his acquittal. He said he was thankful to be released.

“It’s a struggle, waking up every day knowing you’re innocent and here I am locked in a cell, screaming for help,” Saldana said, according to the Southern California News Group.

“I’m just so glad this day has come,” he added.

The investigation into Saldana’s case began in February after the district attorney’s office learned that another convicted assailant had told authorities during a 2017 parole hearing that Saldana was “in no way involved in the shooting and was not present at the incident,” Gascón said.

A former deputy prosecutor attended the hearing “but apparently did nothing” and failed to share the exculpatory information with Saldana or his lawyer as required, he added.

As a result, Saldana spent another six years in prison before the prosecutor’s office reopened the case and declared him innocent, Gascón said.

The prosecutor has not released any other details of the case, but he apologized to Saldana and his family.

“I know this won’t take you back to the decades you spent in prison,” he said. “But I hope our apologies can bring you some comfort as you begin your new life.”

Gascón added: “Not only is it a tragedy to force people into prison for a crime they didn’t commit, but every time an injustice of this magnitude happens, the real ones responsible are still there to commit other crimes. to commit.”