‘I never lost hope’: California man wrongly convicted of trying to murder six high school students in a shooting walks free after 33 YEARS behind bars as he is finally exonerated
- Daniel Saldana, 55, was convicted in 1990 of shooting at a car in Baldwin Park
- He was was proclaimed innocent on Thursday and spoke at a press conference
A California man wrongly convicted of trying to murder six high school students in a shooting has walked free after 33 years behind bars as he was finally exonerated, noting that he never lost hope.
Daniel Saldana, 55, was proclaimed innocent by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office on Thursday, authorities announced.
He was convicted in 1990 of shooting at a car containing six teenagers who were leaving a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles.
Two students were wounded in the 1989 attack but survived. The attackers mistook the teens for gang members, authorities said.
On Thursday, wearing a gray suit and flanked by family members at the Hall of Justice in Downtown Los Angeles, appearing with District Attorney George Gascón, Saldana said: ‘I never lost hope.’
Daniel Saldana, right, flanked by his lawyer Mike Romano, center, and fellow exoneree Frankie Carrillo, back left. Saldana, who spent 33 years in California prison for attempted murder, has been declared innocent and 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.
Saldana was 22 at the time of the 1989 shooting and worked full-time as a construction worker. He was one of three men charged with the attack.
He was convicted of six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle and sentenced to 45 years to life in state prison.
Gascón’s office began investigating after learning in February that 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,’ the DA 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 attorney as required, Gascón said.
Daniel Saldana, right, shaking hands with Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascon, left. Saldana’s lawyer Mike Romano is in the middle. Saldana, who spent 33 years in California prison for attempted murder, has been declared innocent and freed
That caused Saldana to spend a further six years in prison before the DA’s office reopened the case and declared him innocent, Gascón said.
It was not immediately clear whether Saldana would be entitled to any compensation from Los Angeles or California for his lengthy prison stay.
The district attorney didn’t disclose other details of the case but he apologized 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.’
In 2021, neighboring Riverside County settled a lawsuit and paid $11 million to Horace Roberts, who spent two decades in prison after being wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend in 1998.
Gascón didn’t disclose additional details on the case but offered his condolences to Saldana.
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