A California man who spent 33 years in prison for attempted murder has pleaded not guilty and been released, the Los Angeles County district attorney announced Thursday.
Daniel Saldana, 55, was charged in 1990 for shooting up a car carrying six teenagers leaving a high school football game in Baldwin Park, east of Los Angeles, in October 1989. Two students were injured but survived.
Saldana was 22 years old at the time of the shooting and worked full-time as an architect. He was one of three men accused of the attack. Saldana was found guilty of six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting at a carjacked vehicle. He was sentenced to 45 years in state prison.
He appeared with District Attorney George Gascon at a press conference announcing his dismissal on Thursday. He said he was grateful to be released.
“It’s hard, every day I wake up knowing you’re innocent and here I am locked in a room, crying for help,” Saldana said, according to the Southern California News Group.
“I’m just so happy that this day has come,” he said.
DA apologizes to Saldana
Gascon’s office began investigating after learning in February that a convicted felon told authorities at a parole hearing in 2017 that Saldana “was not involved in any way and was not involved in the incident,” the DA said.
A deputy district attorney was present at the 2017 hearing “but apparently did nothing” and failed to share information with Saldana or his attorney as required, Gascon said.
That put Saldana in prison for another six years before the DA’s office reopened the case and declared him innocent, Gascon said.
The district attorney did not comment on the case but apologized to Saldana and his family.
“I know this will not take back the many years you endured in prison,” he said. “But I hope our apology brings some comfort to you as you begin your new life.”
Gascon added: “It’s not just a problem of forcing people to go to prison for a crime they didn’t commit, but whenever this kind of injustice happens, the real people who are responsible for the crime remain to commit other crimes.”