An American man, Gerardo Cabanillas, aged 46, has been declared innocent and released from prison after spending nearly three decades incarcerated since 1995 for charges of kidnap, robbery, and rape.
Cabanillas was convicted in 1996 based on his confession to being one of two armed men involved in a crime where a couple was accosted, the man was forced out, and the woman was taken to an abandoned house and sexually assaulted.
According to a report by the Daily Mail, the Conviction Integrity Unit of the District Attorney’s office reevaluated his case. Subsequently, a judge overturned his conviction, declared him factually innocent, and ordered his permanent release. DNA testing on the rape kit, requested by the Innocence Project in 2019, revealed that two other individuals were responsible for the assault.
Furthermore, the victims who initially identified Cabanillas from photo lineups later expressed doubts in court, stating that they had been coerced into making the identification. District Attorney George Gascon noted that Cabanillas, who was 18 at the time of his arrest, was detained because he loosely matched the suspects’ description. Despite a lack of physical evidence linking him to the crime, he faced 14 felony charges and would have potentially spent his life behind bars were it not for the discovery of DNA evidence.
“He always maintained that on the date of his arrest, he was coerced by the investigating detective into giving a false confession with a promise that he would be released on probation.
“After a thorough review of all the evidence, including expert analysis of the purported confession and an interview with the sexual assault victim, we lost confident in the conviction in this case,” Gascon said.
“I extend my deepest apologies to Mr. Cabanillas for the miscarriage of justice and the failure of our criminal legal system,” the DA said after he was exonerated.
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