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Daniel Saldana: 33 years innocent in U.S. prison

Photo: Public Prosecutor's Office LA/AP/dpa

33 years after being convicted of attempted murder, a detainee in the US state of California has been declared innocent and released. Daniel Saldana – now 55 years old – was unjustly sent behind bars at the time, said Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón on Thursday. The legal system had failed in this case.

Saldana was sentenced in 1990 to 45 years to life imprisonment. Two other people were on trial with the 22-year-old at the time. They allegedly shot at six high school students in a vehicle in Los Angeles, who were mistaken for gang members. Two of the victims were injured, no one was killed. Saldana always maintained his innocence.

At a hearing in 2017, one of the co-convicts said he was responsible for the shooting and that Saldana was not at the scene. However, this exculpatory statement was not forwarded at the time, but was only transmitted to the authorities in February of this year, the prosecutor's office explained.

He was grateful to be alive, Saldana told journalists and surrounded by his family. "It was a struggle to wake up every day knowing that you were innocently locked up in a cell." He had no means and no money to take action against it, Saldana said. But he always believed that "the day" would come.