Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced Tuesday the exoneration of Gerardo Cabanillas, a man who spent more than 28 years in prison after a 1996 conviction for kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery.
“I am here with you with a deep sense of responsibility as the district attorney to address a tragic miscarriage of justice and celebrate the release and release from prison of an innocent man,” Gascón said in a press conference last Tuesday.
On January 16, 1995, a man and a woman were robbed by two men, and the woman was also sexually assaulted, according to Gascón. Days later, Cabanillas, who is 18, was arrested by police because he generally matched the description of one of the two suspects, he said.
Gascón said no physical evidence was collected linking Cabanillas to the crimes, but he was convicted of 14 felony counts, in part because of coerced confessions by law enforcement interrogators. He was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, consecutive to a mandatory sentence of 72 years and four months in California state prison, he said.
In 2019, Cabanillas’ lawyers from the California Innocence Project, a nonprofit that works to free convicted people from prison, submitted a motion to have DNA testing done at the crime scene.
“Thanks to the arrival of the DNA and the hard work of everyone involved in this case, we now know the truth that Mr. Cabanillas had nothing to do with these crimes,” said Michael Semanchik, executive director of the Innocence Project. . California.
After DNA testing showed that Canillas did not commit the sexual assault, Gascón said his office took steps to overturn the conviction.
“Our Conviction Integrity Unit investigators later found an interview with another individual who matched the description of the perpetrator and had committed several serious crimes in the same area, including multiple rapes and murders. After a thorough review of all the evidence, alleged confessions and an interview with the victim of sexual assault, we have lost confidence in the conviction of this case,” said Gascón on Tuesday.
Cabanillas was conditionally released from state prison on May 16, according to the district attorney’s office. On September 21, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan vacated the conviction, finding Mr. Cabanillas, and he was permanently released from prison.
“To you and your family I offer our most sincere apologies for the terrible injustice that has been done,” Gascón told Cabanillas, who attended the press conference with his family but preferred not to speak.
Gascón told reporters on Tuesday that one of the alleged attackers was believed to be serving a life sentence for an unrelated murder conviction and that the identity of the second suspect was unknown.