Man Released From Jail After 32 Years For Murder He Didn’t Commit

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Brianna Lyman News and Commentary Writer
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A California man was exonerated Monday after spending 32 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit, according to authorities.

Joaquin Ciria, 61, was exonerated following a four-month investigation by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Innocence Commission that found Ciria did not commit the 1990 fatal shooting of Felix Bastarrica.

“Wrongful convictions continue to plague our justice system at great cost to the families, victims and accused persons whose lives are devastated when the wrong person is convicted of a crime,” District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in a statement. “Prosecutors have a duty to promote justice and correct injustices. Mr. Ciria spent more than 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.”

“Although we cannot give him back the decades of his life lost we are thankful that the court has corrected this miscarriage of justice.”

Ciria was convicted in 1991 for Bastarrica’s death despite lack of physical evidence linking Ciria to the crime, according to Boudin’s office. Ciria was tied to the crime by testimony from the getaway driver, George Varela, and “rumors on the street.” Three eyewitnesses identified Ciria as the shooter despite two of the witnesses having been at a far distance from the crime scene and had been plagued by poor lighting.

Ciria had two alibi witnesses who were willing to testify, according to Boudin’s office. (RELATED: Innocent Man Who Spent 15 Years In Prison For Murder Conviction Sues Philadelphia For Unconstitutional Practices)

Ciria was convicted, however, based in part of Varela’s testimony despite Boudin’s claiming Varela faced “extreme pressure from police” to pin the crime on Ciria.

One of Bastarrica’s best friends who witnessed the shooting identified a different person as the shooter but did not testify at the trial. Other witnesses allegedly corroborated his account and described the shooter, which did not match Ciria.

Varela has since admitted to his family that Ciria was not the shooter and he gave false testimony during the trial, according to Boudin’s office.

Ciria has maintained his innocence.

“When a conviction is a perversion of justice because it deprives an innocent person of his freedom while robbing the victim and his family of justice, the District Attorney has a duty to correct that intolerable violation,” Chair of the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office Innocence Commission Lara Bazelon said.

Ciria said he feels like his life is starting over again, according to KPIX 5.

“It was unbelievable. You could not describe that feeling,” Ciria reportedly said. “You know for me to describe that feeling to you … it is no words. It is like you’re born again. You know like your whole life is starting again.”

Ciria said he spent a ton of time in Folsom State Prison’s law library to study the law in a bid to prove his innocence, according to KPIX 5.

“My biggest fear was to die in prison not fighting.”