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Daniel Saldana: California man who served 33 years in prison is released years after exonerating evidence comes to light


Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

Daniel Saldana, right, leaves the Los Angeles Hall of Justice with his attorney Mike Romano on Thursday.


A man has been released from prison after serving 33 years for a crime Los Angeles prosecutors now say he did not commit after reviewing exculpatory evidence revealed by another inmate six years ago, the district attorney announced.

Daniel Saldana was sentenced to 45 years in prison after he and two others were convicted of attempted murder in a 1989 incident in which a group of six high school students were shot while driving, apparently mistaken for gang members, a Los Angeles press release said. District Attorney George Gascón’s office. Two of the students were injured.

But a retrial this year “determined that Daniel Saldana is innocent of the crimes he was convicted of and spent 33 years in prison for,” Gascón said at a news conference Thursday.

“I never lost hope,” Saldana said at the press conference. “I’m innocent — 100 percent — I’ve said that from day one,” he said.

The exculpatory evidence was revealed during a 2017 parole hearing for one of Saldana’s co-defendants, who told the parole board that Saldana not only participated in the shooting but was not present at the time, Gascón said.

The new information was not shared with Saldana or his attorney, Gascón said.

It was not until February that the statement from the parole hearing was presented to Gascón’s office by the California Board of Parole Hearings, which since 2017 has gained new members.

“This information was clearly exculpatory information that the DA’s office was required to release to Mr. Saldana or his attorney, but it was not released. This failure to investigate this case in 2017 cost Mr. Saldana an additional six years in prison,” Gascón said .

“This is overwhelming,” Saldana said Thursday. “I just knew this would come one day. I’m just so grateful and I just thank God, Jesus.”

Gascón blamed many people for the delay in justice, including the parole board and the prosecutor who attended the hearing “but apparently did nothing.” The deputy district attorney is no longer in the office, Gascón said.

“Mr. Saldana, you have always maintained your innocence, and I want to once again apologize to you, to you and to your family for this failure,” the district attorney said. “I know this will not bring back the decades you have endured in prison and I hope our apology is of some comfort to you as you begin your new life.”

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said in a statement that it is pleased the district attorney’s office took action on the matter, noting that the board “maintains transparency by conducting hearings that include the presence and participation of relevant parties, including legal counsel for the imprisoned person and a representative from the prosecution.”

“Daniel Saldana’s claims of innocence by his co-defendants were made in an environment with the Deputy District Attorney present — bringing these claims to their office’s attention in 2017,” the department said. “If the claims of innocence had been made in a context without the Deputy Attorney General present, the Board would have been responsible for referring the case to the prosecution.”

Saldana will live and work with his family for the foreseeable future, his lawyer Mike Romano, director of Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, told CNN.

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