DNA Evidence Exonerates Man After 30 Years in Prison for Crimes He Didn’t Commit

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Emerging from a California prison after languishing for close to three decades, a man accused of kidnapping, sexual assault, and robbery now stands exonerated of these injustices. This reversal of fortune came about following recent DNA testing that established his innocence in these matters.

The accused, Gerardo Cabanillas, was bestowed his long-awaited freedom last week. The grim narrative initiating the downslide of Cabanillas’ life unfolded in Los Angeles, in the year 1995. He was charged with robbing a couple, while subjecting the woman to both captivity and sexual coercion.

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Addressing the serious miscarriage of justice, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón spoke passionately about the exoneration of an innocent man, releasing him from the shackles of a prison sentence he never deserved.

Recalling the incidents of January 1995, the District Attorney spoke about the throat-clenching incident where a couple was robbed at gunpoint. The hoodlums responsible didn’t stop at thievery; they escalated the situation to a horrifying sexual assault on the woman. A few days following the terrifying event, Cabanillas was arrested on the basis of his vague resemblance to one of the suspects.

Cabanillas, at the tender age of 18 at the time of the arrest, claimed his confession was wrung out of him by an investigating detective, who ostensibly promised a release on probation. In the absence of any material evidence connecting Cabanillas to the unspeakable acts, he was, however, faced with an array of 14 felony counts.

The young man defended his innocence steadfastly, but his pleas fell on deaf ears as he was undeservingly thrust into a lifetime imprisonment. In an appealing turn of events in 2019, lawyers from the California Innocence Project, a non-profit organization committed to liberating falsely accused individuals, stepped in. They moved for a DNA examination related to the sexual assault victim of ’95. The findings revealed no correlation to Cabanillas.

Post an in-depth scrutiny of evidence, including the victim’s interview and an expert review of the confession, faith in this conviction was rendered obsolete. Cabanillas was conditionally liberated from prison in May, and on September 21, found factual innocence by a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge which saw to his permanent freedom.

Alissa Bjerkhoel, the interim director of the California Innocence Project, contemplated the release as “bittersweet”. She articulated the damming implications of the wrongful conviction, a lifetime in the free world that was stolen from Gerardo could never be replaced.

Using the new DNA information, investigators from the district attorney’s office have pinpointed a new suspect, presently in custody for an unrelated murder. This individual corresponded with the initial suspect descriptions and seems to have a horrendous track record of similar egregious offenses in the same area.

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