After more than three decades behind bars, a California man convicted of attempted murder was declared innocent and freed from prison, the Los Angeles County district attorney announced.
Daniel Saldana was sentenced to 45 years in prison after he was convicted in 1990 of opening fire on a car containing six teenagers who were leaving a high school football game in Baldwin Park, just outside of Los Angeles. Two students were wounded, but they both survived the shooting.
Saldana, a 22-year-old construction worker, was one of three men charged in the attack. He was found guilty on six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle.
But a reexamination of the case “determined that Daniel Saldana is innocent of the crimes he was convicted of and spent 33 years in prison for,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a news conference Thursday. His office in February launched an investigation after another convicted attacker told authorities during a 2017 parole hearing that Saldana “was not involved in the shooting in any way and he was not present during the incident.”
A former deputy district attorney was present at the hearing “but apparently did nothing” and failed to share the exonerating information, leaving Saldana in prison for another six years.
Authorities now believe the attackers mistook the victims for gang members.
“It’s a struggle, every day waking up knowing you’re innocent and here I am locked up in a cell, crying for help,” Saldana said, adding that he never lost hope during his decades behind bars.
“I’m just so happy this day came,” he added.
Gascón did not provide additional details regarding the case, but he did offer an apology to Saldana, who is now 55 years old.
“I know that this won’t bring you back the decades you endured in prison,” he said. “But I hope our apology brings some small comfort to you as you begin your new life.”
With News Wire Services