Los Angeles County District Attorney announced on Thursday that a California man, who had spent 33 years behind bars for attempted murder, has been declared innocent.
Daniel Saldana (55), was convicted of firing on a car with six teens who were leaving an east Los Angeles high school football match in Baldwin Park. Two students were injured but survived.
Authorities said that the attackers mistakenly believed the teens to be gang members.
Saldana, who was 22 years old at the time of his shooting, worked as a full-time construction worker. He was charged as one of three men. Saldana, who was convicted of six counts for attempted murder and one of shooting into an occupied vehicle after it had been parked in the street, received a sentence of 45 years up to life imprisonment.
Saldana and District Attorney George Gascon appeared together at a Thursday press conference to announce his exoneration. He expressed his gratitude for being freed.
Saldana told the Southern California News Group that it was a struggle to wake up every morning knowing one is innocent, and yet, here I am, locked in a prison cell, begging for help.
“I am so glad this day has come,” he said.
Gascon’s Office began an investigation after learning, in February, that another convicted assailant told authorities at a 2017 parole hearing Saldana was “not involved in the shooting and he wasn’t present during the event,” according to the DA.
Gascon stated that a former deputy district prosecutor was present at Saldana’s hearing, “but appeared to do nothing”, and did not share the information exonerating Saldana with his lawyer or Saldana as required.
Gascon stated that Saldana spent an additional six-years in prison after the DA’s Office reopened the investigation and declared him guilty.
Saldana’s family and the district attorney were apologized for by the district attorney.
He said, “I know this won’t make you forget the years you spent in prison.” “But I do hope that our apology will bring you some small comfort as you start your new life.”
Gascon continued: “Not only does it seem unfair to put people in prison for crimes they didn’t commit, but the people who are really responsible still commit crimes every time an injustice of this magnitude occurs.”