Man declared innocent of attempted murder and freed after 33 years in California prison
LOS ANGELES — A California man serving 33 years in prison for attempted murder has been found not guilty and released, the Los Angeles County District Attorney announced Thursday.
Daniel Saldana, 55, was convicted in 1990 of opening fire on a car carrying six teenagers exiting a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles. Two students were injured but survived.
The attackers mistook the teenagers for gang members, authorities said.
Saldana was 22 at the time of the shooting and was working full-time as a construction worker. He was one of three men charged with the assault. Saldana was sentenced to 45 years to life in state prison on six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle.
Saldana appeared alongside District Attorney George Gascón at a news conference on Thursday announcing his exoneration. He said he was grateful to be released.
“It’s a struggle to wake up every day and know you’re innocent and then I’m locked in a cell screaming for help,” Saldana said, according to the report Southern California Newsgroup.
“I’m just so happy that this day has come,” he added.
Gascón’s office began investigating after learning in February that another convicted assailant told authorities during a parole hearing in 2017 that Saldana “was in no way involved in the shooting and was not involved in the incident.” was present,” the prosecutor said.
A former assistant district attorney was present at the hearing but “did not appear to have taken any action” and failed to provide the exculpatory information to Saldana or his attorney as required, Gascón said.
This resulted in Saldana serving another six years in prison before prosecutors reopened the case and declared him innocent, Gascón said.
The district attorney did not provide further details of the case, but apologized to Saldana and his family.
“I know it won’t bring you back the decades you endured in prison,” he said. “But I hope our apologies will bring you some comfort as you begin your new life.”
Gascón added: “Not only is it a tragedy to put people in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, but every time an injustice of this magnitude happens, those really responsible are still out there doing other crimes to commit.”