California Man Freed after 25 Years in Prison from Bad Eyewitness ID

By The Vanguard Staff

LOS ANGELES, CA – After spending 25 years in prison, a California man was exonerated and ordered released Thursday within five days from Mule Creek State Prison by a judge—prosecutors said Miguel Solorio, 44, was wrongly convicted.

Solorio was arrested in 1998 when he was just a teen for a fatal drive-by shooting in Whittier, southeast of Los Angeles, and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, according to an Associated Press story.

Solorio attended a hearing remotely Thursday when Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Ryan overturned Solorio’s conviction.

“It’s like a dream I don’t want to wake up from,” he said. “This day finally came,” added Solorio, who thanked his Northern California Innocence Project lawyers, calling them his “dream team,” wrote the AP.

The attorneys working for Solorio maintain his conviction was based on faulty eyewitness identification practices, and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office said it had “confidently and definitively” concluded Solorio should be released.

“His attorneys said the case against Solorio relied heavily on a now-debunked method of identifying a suspect that results in contaminating the witnesses’ memory by repeatedly showing photos of the same person over and over,” according to AP.

The defense team said “before it was in the news four eyewitnesses shown his photo did not identify him as the suspect, and some even pointed to a different person. But rather than pursue other leads, law enforcement continued to present the witnesses with photos of Solorio until some of them eventually identified him,” AP wrote.

“This case is a tragic example of what happens when law enforcement officials develop tunnel vision in their pursuit of a suspect,” said Sarah Pace, an attorney with the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University School of Law.

Pace added, “Once a witness mentioned Solorio’s name, law enforcement officers zeroed in on only him, disregarding other evidence and possible suspects, and putting their own judgment about guilt or innocence above the facts.”

The district attorney noted that “new documentable scientific consensus emerged in 2020 that a witness’s memory for a suspect should be tested only once, as even the test itself contaminates the witness’s memory.” 

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