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Man wrongfully convicted of murder exonerated after 32 years in prison

Joaquín Ciria, 61, was arrested in 1990 and convicted of a murder in San Francisco

April 20, 2022 4:09pm

Updated: April 21, 2022 12:47pm

A California man who spent more than three decades behind bars for a crime he did not commit was acquitted on Monday by the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.

Joaquin Ciria, 61, was imprisoned for 32 years after being arrested in 1990 for the murder of his friend Felix Bastarrica, who was shot in the head after an argument in an alley in the SOMA District, reported El Comercio.

Ciria was convicted based on false witness testimony and police misconduct, said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who dismissed the case against Ciria after a judge overturned his case.

His case marks the first exoneration driven by the District Attorney's Innocence Commission, established by Boudin in 2020 to review possible wrongful convictions.

"Thirty-two years ago, you were separated from your wife and baby, and that's because the system failed you catastrophically," said Lara Bazelon, president of the commission, during a press conference with Boudin and members of his family. "Now, finally, you have a chance to get your life back." 

An 18-month investigation by the commission located new witnesses and evidence, finding a "series of errors" in the way the case was handled, the media reported.

Authorities claimed that there were also errors on behalf of the defense regarding the inclusion of the testimonies.

"There was no DNA, no fingerprints, nor was the murder weapon ever recovered," Bazelon said, adding that Ciria had always maintained his innocence and had two alibi witnesses who said he was at home at the time of the murder, but they were never called by the defense, possibly because they only spoke Spanish.

Ciria was identified as Bastarrica's killer by witness George Varela. Sometime later, Varela confessed to his sister and a friend that he knew Ciria was not guilty, which served as strong evidence for his pardon, according to Telemundo 51.

"It has been a long road, but today we have achieved what I fought so hard for. I was very angry for the first 15 years. Then I changed the anger for positive things," Ciria said. "I want to look at it as this was a test that God put in my path to see how much I could resist."

Now that he will be released, Ciria will resume his life to share with his son whom he had to leave as a newborn, the television network reported.

"Eating good Cuban food, walking with my son for long hours," he said.

Ciria took this opportunity to let people know his story. "To make sure that my message reaches all those who are in the same situation," he added.


Fast-File Reporter

Marielbis Rojas

Marielbis Rojas is a Venezuelan journalist and communications professional with a degree in Social Communication from UCAB. She is a news reporter for ADN America.