A US man who spent nearly 30 years in prison for kidnapping, rape and robbery has been declared innocent and freed.
Gerardo Cabanillas was exonerated with the help of DNA testing in a 1995 attack on a couple sitting in a parked car in the city of South Gate in California, the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced.
Mr Cabanillas’ case was reexamined by the Conviction Integrity Unit of the DA’s office and last week a judge reversed his conviction, found him factually innocent and ordered his permanent release.
“I extend my deepest apologies to Mr Cabanillas for the miscarriage of justice and the failure of our criminal legal system,” district attorney George Gascon said in a statement.
Mr Cabanillas was convicted in 1996 and spent 28 years in prison.
He had confessed to being one of two armed men who approached the couple, forced the man out and drove the woman to an abandoned house where they both raped her.
Another couple in the car in the same area were robbed two days later, authorities said.
Victims of the attacks were told of his confession and identified Mr Cabanillas from photo lineups, but they later expressed doubts in court and said they were pressured into identifying him, according to the California Innocence Project at the California Western School of Law, which represented Mr Cabanillas.
DNA testing on the rape kit showed two other people committed the assault, the group said.
No other suspects were ever arrested, though one man later confessed to committing one of the crimes, the Innocence Project said.
‘Gerardo would have spent the rest of his life in prison’
“False confessions are one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions in the United States,” interim director Alissa Bjerkhoel told the Associated Press.
“Police are permitted to lie to suspects, including promises of leniency if the person confesses. That is exactly what happened here and, if it was not for the DNA evidence, Gerardo would have spent the rest of his life in prison.
“We are thrilled for Gerardo and his family that the truth has finally set him free.”