Related video: This man spent 32 years in prison for a crime he did not commit 2:42
(WABNEWS) — A California man has been released from prison after serving 33 years for a crime Los Angeles prosecutors now say he did not commit after reviewing exonerating evidence that was revealed by another inmate six years ago, the court announced. district attorney.
Daniel Saldana was sentenced to 45 years in prison after he and two others were found guilty of attempted murder in a 1989 incident in which a group of six high school students were shot while driving, apparently by mistaken for members of a criminal gang, according to a news release from the office of Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón. Two of the students were injured.RELATED
But a reexamination of the case this year “determined that Daniel Saldana is innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted and spent 33 years in prison,” Gascón said at a press conference Thursday.
“I never lost hope,” Saldana said at the press conference. “I am innocent, one hundred percent, I have said it from day one,” she said.
The exonerating evidence was unsealed during a 2017 parole hearing for one of Saldana’s co-defendants, who told the parole board that Saldana not only did not participate in the shooting, but was not present at the time, he said. Gascon.
The new information was not communicated to Saldana or his lawyer, according to Gascón.
It wasn’t until February that the statement from the parole hearing was presented to Gascón’s office by the California Board of Parole Hearings, which since 2017 has had new members.
“This information was clearly exonerating, which the prosecutor’s office was required to provide to Mr. Saldana or his attorney, but was not provided. This failure to investigate this matter in 2017 cost Mr. Saldana an additional six years in prison,” he said. Gascon.
“This is overwhelming,” Saldana said Thursday. “I just knew one day this was going to happen. I’m so thankful and just thank God, thank Jesus.”
Gascón blamed many people for the delay in justice, including the parole board and the prosecutor who attended the hearing “but apparently did nothing.” That deputy prosecutor is no longer in the office, Gascón said.
“Mr. Saldana, you have always maintained your innocence and I want to apologize once again to you and your family for this failure,” the district attorney said. “I know this will not pay you back for the decades you endured in prison, and I hope our apology is some small comfort to you as you start your new life.”
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement that it was pleased the district attorney’s office took action on the case, noting that the board “maintains transparency by conducting hearings that include the presence and participation of the appropriate parties, including the incarcerated person’s attorney and a representative of the District Attorney’s Office.”
“Daniel Saldana’s claims of innocence by his co-defendant were made in a setting with the Assistant District Attorney present, making his office aware of these claims in 2017,” the department said. “Had the claims of innocence been made in a setting without the assistant district attorney present, the board would have been responsible for referring the matter to the prosecuting agency.”
Saldana will live and work with her family for the foreseeable future, her attorney Mike Romano, director of the Three Strikes Project at Stanford Law School, told WABNEWS.