OAN’s Abril Elfi
1:49 PM – Wednesday, September 27, 2023
A California man who spent almost 30 years in prison for kidnapping, raping, and robbing a couple, has been released after he was cleared by DNA evidence.
On Tuesday, prosecutors in the Los Angeles county district announced the exoneration of Gerardo Cabanillas, who had been in prison for 28 years for allegedly robbing a man and kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman, dating back to 1995.
Los Angeles County District George Gascón held a press conference where he asserted that he felt a deep sense of responsibility for the “tragic miscarriage of justice.”
“I stand here with you with a deep sense of responsibility as a district attorney to address a tragic miscarriage of justice and to celebrate the exoneration and release of prison of an innocent man,” Gascón said.
Court documents stated that the incident occurred in January of 1995. A couple was startled as they were approached and both held at gunpoint while they sat in a parked car in the city of South Gate, California. Two men abruptly robbed the couple and then kidnapped the woman, who they later sexually assaulted.
According to Gascón, days after the incident, Cabanillas, who was 18-years-old at the time, was arrested due to the fact that he matched the physical description of one of the suspects.
“Mr. Cabanillas 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,” Gascón said.
He continued stating that even though there was no physical evidence tying the alleged suspect to the case, Cabanillas was still arrested and charged with 14 felony counts.
According to the district attorney, Cabanillas’ lawyers from the California Innocence Project, a non-profit that works to liberate wrongfully convicted persons from prison, filed a motion in 2019 to have DNA evidence relating to the 1995 assault victim further analyzed.
It was soon discovered that none of the DNA samples matched Cabanillas.
“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,” Gascón said.
According to the district attorney’s office, Cabanillas was conditionally released from a prison in May.
On September 21st, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge overturned his conviction and pronounced him factually innocent. Authorities have also identified a new suspect using the DNA and he is now in custody in connection to a different killing.
Authorities have not yet publicly identified the new suspect.
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