A man in California was just released from prison on Thursday, 33 years after his being locked up on six counts of attempted murder. He was cleared of those six charges of attempted murder, the Los Angeles County district attorney announced.
According to a press release put out by the DA, George Gascon, a parole transcript revealed that Mr. Daniel Saldana was not involved in the shootings for which he was locked up, information that then led to his acquittal and release decades after he was locked up for the crime he didn’t commit. The press release, describing the crime and revelation that led to his freedom, said:
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced today the exoneration and release of Daniel Saldana, who has spent the last 33 years in state prison after being wrongfully convicted of attempted murder in 1990.
“As prosecutors, our duty is not simply to secure convictions but to seek justice. When someone is wrongfully convicted, it is a failure of our justice system and it is our responsibility to right that wrong. We owe it to the individual who was wrongfully convicted and to the public that justice is served,” District Attorney Gascón said.
Not only is it a tragedy to force people into prison for a crime they did not commit, every time an injustice of this magnitude takes place, the real people responsible are still out there to commit more crimes. Our job is to hold people accountable when they cause harm, but we also have to hold ourselves and the system accountable.”
District Attorney Gascón was joined today by Saldana, his family and Mike Romano, who has been assisting him and his family throughout the exoneration process. Romano is the Director of Stanford’s Three Strikes Project and serves as the Chair of the Governor’s Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code.
“Today, I want to thank the District Attorney’s Office, the Conviction Integrity Unit and law enforcement for their hard work and dedication in seeking out the truth about what really happened more than three decades ago. It is disappointing to know that a deputy district attorney was privy to this information over six years ago at a parole hearing but failed to bring it to light. But we thank the CDCR for bringing this information to the District Attorney’s attention in February of this year. We must all work together to help people like Mr. Saldana who are spending their precious years behind bars for an act they did not commit,” Romano said.
On October 27, 1989, six high school students were driving in Baldwin Park after a high school football game when two young men mistook them for gang members and opened fire. Two of the students were injured but survived their wounds.
On January 3, 1990, Saldana and two others were charged with six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle. Saldana was convicted of these charges and sentenced to 45 years to life in state prison. He was 22 years old and working fulltime as a construction worker when he began his sentence.
On August 31, 2017, it was disclosed during a parole hearing that Saldana was not involved in the shooting in any way and was not present. At the end of February 2023, the Executive Officer of the Board of Parole Hearings provided a copy of the 2017 hearing transcript to the District Attorney’s Office and thereafter, the office launched an investigation.
The office’s Conviction Integrity Unit realized the importance of this new evidence and quickly sought to prioritize the investigation into the matter. A thorough review of the case was conducted, including an investigation by District Attorney investigators in partnership with the Baldwin Park Police Department investigated new leads. Based on its investigation, the District Attorney’s Office determined that Saldana was innocent of the crimes he was convicted of and for which he spent over 33 years in prison.
D.A. Gascón joined Daniel Saldaña & his loved ones today to announce & celebrate his return home. Mr. Saldaña spent 33 yrs in prison after being #WrongfullyConvicted of attempted murder & sentenced to 45 yrs to life in 1990.🧵 pic.twitter.com/Kl2gFdcxeF
— George Gascón (@LADAOffice) May 25, 2023
Normally, Gascon is one of the worst, soft-on-crime DAs in the country. This move, however, appears to be just.
Featured image credit: screengrab from the embedded video
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