US man declared innocent after spending 33 years in California prison

Daniel Saldana (R) smiles on May 25, 2023, after Dist. Atty. George Gascón's announcement of his release after 33 years behind bars. (Photo by Los Angeles Times)

An American man has been declared innocent and freed after spending 33 years in a US prison for attempted murder.

The Los Angeles County district attorney announced on Thursday that Daniel Saldana, who is now 55 years old, was exonerated after being convicted in 1990 of opening fire on a car leaving a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles.

The shooting left two of the six teenagers inside wounded but they survived.

Saldana was one of three men charged with the attack and was sentenced to 45 years in prison after being convicted of six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle.

However, evidence by another convicted attacker emerged later that he “was not involved in the shooting in any way and he was not present during the incident.”

The 55-year-old, who appeared with District Attorney George Gascón at a press conference announcing his exoneration, 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, adding, “I’m just so happy this day came.”

The district attorney did not disclose the main details of the case but he apologized to Saldana and his family, saying, “I know that this won’t bring you back the decades you endured in prison, but I hope our apology brings some small comfort to you as you begin your new life.”

“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,” Gascón said.

By February 2020, a total of 2,551 exonerations were mentioned in the National Registry of Exonerations. The total time these exonerated people spent in prison adds up to 22,540 years.

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