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San Francisco’s Innocence Commission succeeded on Monday in obtaining its first exoneration of Joaquin Ciria, 61, of not having committed the murder for which he had been imprisoned for 32 years.
Ciria was sentenced to life in prison in 1990 for first degree murder in the shooting death of Felix Bastarrica. Thanks to the commission, established by District Attorney Chesa Boudin in 2020, he is expected to be released.
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“Thirty-two years ago, your wife and baby were taken away from you, and that’s because the system failed you catastrophically,” commission chair Lara Bazelon said during a briefing. press conference. “Now, at last, you have a chance to take your life back.”
In order to have Ciria’s conviction overturned by a judge, Bazelon’s team investigated the case for 18 months, finding new evidence and new witnesses. Bazelon said they uncovered “a cascade of errors” in the case, including what they said was police forcing a teenage witness.
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Bazelon noted that Ciria always claimed he was innocent and had two witnesses who said he was at home at the time of the shooting. Witnesses were never called to testify in the case, and Bazelon speculated that was because they spoke no English.
“If a jury had heard this case today, there would have been no conviction,” she said.
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“Prosecutors have a duty to promote justice and correct injustices,” Boudin said in a statement. “Mr. Ciria spent over 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. While we cannot restore the decades of his life lost, we are grateful that the court has corrected this miscarriage of justice .”
The exact timing of Ciria’s release is not yet known.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.