Gerardo Cabanillas, who spent a staggering 28 years behind bars for crimes he didn’t commit, has finally been declared innocent and set free, according to an announcement by Los Angeles County prosecutors on Tuesday.
28 Years of Injustice
Back in 1995, Cabanillas was wrongly convicted of kidnapping, robbery, and assault, stemming from a harrowing incident involving a couple parked in their car in the city of South Gate.
DNA Evidence Unveils a Grave Miscarriage of Justice
Recent DNA testing played a pivotal role in unraveling the truth behind this tragic miscarriage of justice, as revealed by the county district attorney’s office.
Judge Declares Cabanillas Factually Innocent
The Conviction Integrity Unit of the DA’s office reexamined Cabanillas’ case, leading to a momentous turn of events. Just last week, a judge reversed his conviction, pronounced him factually innocent, and ordered his permanent release.
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón expressed profound regret over the grave injustice that had led to Cabanillas’ wrongful imprisonment.
District Attorney’s Deep Apology
In a statement, Gascón declared, “Today, we acknowledge a grave injustice that has resulted in the unjust more than 28-year incarceration of Mr. Cabanillas.
Upon thorough reexamination of the evidence and a comprehensive review of the case by my office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, it has become abundantly clear that a serious error was made.
I extend my deepest apologies to Mr. Cabanillas for the miscarriage of justice and the failure of our criminal legal system.”
The Tragic Incident That Led to Cabanillas’ Arrest
The case harkens back to an incident in January 1995 when a couple was subjected to an attack while sitting in their parked car in the city of South Gate.
The Start of Cabanillas’ Nightmare
Cabanillas, then 18 years old, was arrested by police a few days later. He roughly matched the description of the suspect, according to the California Innocence Project (CIP).
14 Felony Counts and a Wrongful Conviction
Detectives reportedly promised Cabanilla probation and his release if he confessed to the crimes, which he eventually did. However, instead of going home, he found himself facing 14 felony counts, including robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, rape, and sodomy.
His confession implicated him as one of two armed men who had forced the couple out of their car and later assaulted the woman in the abandoned house. Two days after the initial incident, another couple in the same area got robbed, leading to Cabanillas’ arrest.
During the trial, victims of the attacks identified Cabanillas from photo lineups based on his confession. However, they later expressed doubts and revealed they were pressured into identifying him, as stated by the CIP.
The CIP, which represented Cabanillas, emphasized that DNA testing on the rape kit unequivocally demonstrated the involvement of two different individuals in the assault.
No Other Suspects Apprehended
Despite Cabanillas’ wrongful imprisonment, no other suspects were ever apprehended, despite a later confession by one individual involved in the crimes.
False Confessions in America
Alissa Bjerkhoel, interim director of the CIP, underscored the harrowing reality of false confessions in the United States, stating, “False confessions are one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions in the United States. Police are permitted to lie to suspects, including promises of leniency if the person confesses.”
A Second Chance at Life
She Added, “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.”
Police Manipulation Under Scrutiny`
While Cabanillas’ exoneration is a victory for justice, it has raised questions about accountability. Many X users were quick to condemn the police detective who allegedly manipulated the young man into a false confession.
One user questioned, “That detective ruined his life behind a lie. How many others has he done this to?”
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