Daniel Saldana was convicted in 1990 of attempted murder, but evidence emerged that he was not even at the scene.
Published On 26 May 2023
A California man who spent 33 years in prison for attempted murder has been declared innocent and freed after it emerged that he was not even at the scene of the attack.
Daniel Saldana, now 55, was convicted in 1990 of opening fire on a car leaving a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles. There were six teenagers inside and two of them were wounded but survived.
The attackers mistook the teens for gang members, authorities said.
Saldana, who was 22 at the time of the shooting and working full-time as a construction worker, was one of three men charged with 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 with District Attorney George Gascón at a press conference announcing his exoneration on Thursday. He said he was grateful to be freed.
“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, according to the Southern California News Group.
“I’m just so happy this day came,” he added.
Investigations into Saldana’s case began in February after the district attorney’s office learned that another convicted attacker had 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,” Gascón said.
A former deputy district attorney was present at the hearing “but apparently did nothing” and failed to share the exonerating information with Saldana or his lawyer as required, he added.
As a result, Saldana spent an additional six years in prison before the DA’s office reopened the case and declared him innocent, Gascón said.
The district attorney did not disclose other details of the case but he apologised to Saldana and his family.
“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.”
Gascón added: “Not only is this a tragedy to force people into prison for a crime they did not commit, but every time that an injustice of this magnitude takes place, the real people responsible are still out there to commit other crimes.”