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‘So happy’: A man found not guilty after 33 years in US jail

Daniel Saldana was convicted in 1990 of attempted murder, but evidence emerged that he was not even at the scene.

A California man who spent 33 years in prison for attempted murder has been found not guilty and released after it emerged he was not even at the scene of the attack.

Daniel Saldana, now 55, was convicted in 1990 of opening fire on a car leaving a high school football game in Baldwin Park in East Los Angeles. There were six teenagers inside and two of them were injured but survived.

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

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

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

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

“I am so happy that this day has come,” he added.

Investigations into Saldana’s case began in February after the district attorney’s office learned that another convicted shooter had 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,” Gascón said.

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

As a result, Saldana spent another six years in prison before prosecutors reopened the case and found him not guilty, Gascón said.

The prosecutor did not reveal other details of the case but apologized to Saldana and his family.

“I know this will not bring back the decades you endured in prison,” he said. “But I hope our apology brings you a little comfort as you start your new life.”

Gascón added: “Not only is it a tragedy to put people in jail for a crime they did not commit, but every time an injustice of this magnitude occurs, the real perpetrators are still out there to commit other crimes.”

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