Los Angeles District Attorney Announces 2 Wrongfully Imprisoned Teens, Exonerated after Decades Behind Bars

Via Unsplash.com

By Kayla Meraz 

LOS ANGELES, CA – Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón delivered a moving announcement this past week, declaring the exoneration and release of Giovanni Hernandez and Miguel Solorio, both of whom unjustly spent decades behind bars for crimes they did not commit during their teenage years.

Gascón remarked, “It’s truly devastating when people are wrongfully convicted, especially when they were so young at the time of their arrest. In the case of Mr. Solorio, he was 19 years old. Mr. Hernandez was just 14 years old.”

Gascón added, “These cases not only highlight the tragic impact on the lives of those directly affected but also underline the impact on the family and friends left behind. I am committed to ensuring that lessons are learned from this grave error, and that steps are taken to prevent similar injustices from occurring in the future.”

Sarah Pace, an attorney for the Northern California Innocence Project representing Solorio, emphasized the importance of thorough investigation.

Pace noted, “Miguel’s 25 years of wrongful incarceration shows how important it is for law enforcement to follow all leads and avoid tunnel vision, to present witnesses with a particular suspect only one time, and to recognize that, according to the new scientific consensus, when witnesses don’t identify the suspect, it points to their innocence.”

Marisa Harris, an attorney for the Juvenile Innocence and Fair Sentencing Clinic at Loyola Law School, said, “Gio was only 14 years old when he was sentenced to die in prison for a crime he did not commit. Like so many young people serving long, adult sentences in California’s prisons, Gio was given no hope for a future outside of prison walls. However, despite this grave injustice, Gio found his way to the light.”

In a news conference, Gascón apologized to Hernandez and Solorio for their wrongful convictions, commending the diligent work of both his Conviction Integrity and Habeas units. He emphasized that their efforts contributed to bringing forth additional evidence and transparency to the criminal legal process.

Hernandez was arrested at the age of 14 for a 2006 drive-by shooting in Culver City, resulting in the death of 16-year-old Gary Ortiz. Despite his family consistently maintaining his innocence, Hernandez faced two trials, with the second resulting in a conviction in June 2012.

Hernandez filed his initial claim for a conviction review with LADA’s Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) on July 22, 2015, but it was turned down.

Hernandez’s case was resubmitted to the CIU on April 5, 2021, for review and consideration by Loyola Law School attorney Marisa Harris of the Juvenile Innocence and Fair Sentencing Clinic. A reevaluation of his case in 2021 uncovered new evidence, including cell phone records supporting his alibi.

Solorio was arrested at 19 for a fatal drive-by shooting in 1998 in Whittier, in which Mary Bramlett, 81, was shot and killed. On May 11, 2021, Solorio filed an innocence claim and requested a review with LADA’s CIU through his attorney, Ellen Eggers.

In July 2023, the Northern California Innocence Project filed a habeas petition and became co-counsel in the case. The conclusion reached by the Habeas Unit after reviewing the fresh material and conducting an inquiry with the CIU was that Solorio had been wrongly identified in a photo lineup for his brother Pedro Solorio.

The LADA, alongside Solorio and his legal representation, formally requested the vacating of his conviction, dismissal of his case, and his release from prison after nearly 25 years.

Gascón said the “exonerations, marking the third and fourth this year, highlight the imperative need for scrutiny to ensure justice prevails.”

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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