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Man declared innocent of attempted murder and freed after 33 years in California prison

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LOS ANGELES — A California man who spent 33 years in prison for attempted murder has been found innocent and released, the Los Angeles County District Attorney announced Thursday.

Daniel Saldana, 55, was convicted in 1990 of opening fire on a car containing six teenagers who were exiting a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles. Two students were injured but survived.

The attackers mistook the teens for gang members, authorities said.

Saldana was 22 at the time of the shooting and worked full time as a construction worker. He was one of three men charged in the attack. Convicted of six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting an occupied vehicle, Saldana was sentenced to 45 years to life in prison.

This undated photo, provided by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office, shows Daniel Saldana, right, flanked by his attorney Mike Romano, center, and fellow exonerated Frankie Carrillo, back left.  Saldana, who spent 33 years in a California prison for attempted murder, was found innocent and released.
This undated photo shows Daniel Saldana in Los Angeles.Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office via AP

Saldana appeared with District Attorney George Gascón at a press conference announcing his exoneration on Thursday. He said he was grateful to be released.

“It’s a struggle, every day waking up knowing you’re innocent and here I am locked in a cell, crying out for help,” Saldana said, according to the Southern California Newsgroup.

“I’m so happy this day has come,” he added.

Gascón’s office began investigating after learning in February that another convicted assailant told authorities during a 2017 parole hearing that Saldana “was in no way involved in the shooting and that he was not present during the incident,” the DA said.

A former assistant district attorney was present at the hearing “but apparently did nothing” and did not share the exonerating information with Saldana or his attorney as required, Gascón said.

This forced Saldana to spend an additional six years in prison before the prosecutor’s office reopened the case and declared him innocent, Gascón said.

The district attorney did not release further details about the case, but he did apologize to Saldana and her family.

“I know it won’t bring back the decades you endured in prison,” he said. “But I hope our apologies bring you some comfort as you begin your new life.”

Gascón added: “Not only is it a tragedy to force people to jail for a crime they didn’t commit, but whenever an injustice of this magnitude occurs, those truly responsible are always there to help. commit other crimes.”

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