Man Released After Spending 32 Years In Prison For Murder He Didn’t Commit
A California man was exonerated Monday after spending 32 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, according to authorities.
Joaquin Ciria, 61, was exonerated following a four-month investigation by the San Francisco District Attorney’s Innocence Commission that determined 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 murder despite a lack of physical evidence linking him to the crime. Ciria was convicted based on the testimony of the getaway driver, George Varela, and “rumors on the street.”
Three eyewitnesses identified Ciria as the shooter even though two of the witnesses had been at a far distance from the crime scene which was poorly lit.
Ciria was convicted, however, based on 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 someone else as the shooter but did not testify at the trial.
Varela has since confessed to his family that Ciria was not the shooter and that he gave false testimony during the trial, according to Boudin’s office.
“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 as if his life is starting over again.
“It was unbelievable. You could not describe that feeling,” Ciria 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 great deal of time in Folsom State Prison’s law library studying the law in a bid to prove his innocence.
“My biggest fear was to die in prison not fighting.”