LOS ANGELES – A man who spent 33 years in prison for a Baldwin Park shooting was proclaimed innocent Thursday by Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, who said the man was wrongfully convicted of attempted murder.
Daniel Saldana was convicted in 1990 for an Oct. 27, 1989 shooting that targeted six high school students who were driving after a football game. According to prosecutors, the suspects mistook the group for gang members and opened fire, injuring two of them.
Saldana, who was 22 at the time, was charged along with two other people with six counts of attempted murder and one count of shooting at an occupied vehicle. He was convicted and sentenced to 45 years to life in prison.
According to Gascón, another defendant in the case disclosed during a 2017 parole hearing that Saldana was not involved in the shooting, and was not even present at the time. That information was finally relayed to the District Attorney’s Office in February of this year, prompting an investigation that ultimately determined Saldana to be innocent.
“I just knew that one day this was going to come,” Saldana said at a news conference Thursday with Gascón. “I’m so grateful. I just thank God.”
Gascón lamented the delay in the parole board notifying prosecutors about the information disclosed in the 2017 parole hearing. But he stressed the importance of justice being served, even when delayed.
“As prosecutors, our duty is not simply to secure convictions but to seek justice,” he said in a statement. “When someone is wrongfully convicted, it is a failure of our justice system and it is our responsibility to right that wrong. We owe it to the individual who was wrongfully convicted and to the public that justice is served.
“Not only is it a tragedy to force people into prison for a crime they did not commit, every time an injustice of this magnitude takes place, the real people responsible are still out there to commit more crimes. Our job is to hold people accountable when they cause harm, but we also have to hold ourselves and the system accountable.”