Paramount man exonerated 20 years after conviction

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — A man who was wrongfully convicted of a gang member’s murder in Paramount has been released from prison after more than two decades behind bars, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced June 1.

Alexander Torres — who was found guilty in 2001 of second-degree murder — wrote to the District Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which reviewed the evidence in his case and worked with sheriff’s detectives on an investigation that ultimately led to his exoneration, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Torres was serving a 40-year-to-life state prison sentence for the slaying of Martin “Casper” Guitron, who was shot eight times while walking with a friend in the area near 15121 El Camino Ave. on New Year’s Eve in 2000.

Torres was released from prison last October after his murder sentence was vacated, and the Conviction Integrity Unit subsequently joined the California Innocence Project in asking a judge to find him factually innocent of the killing — a finding made by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William Ryan in mid-April, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

In a joint motion seeking a factual innocence finding for Torres, both sides wrote that they “agree there is not a single reliable or credible piece of evidence that Torres committed the crime for which he was convicted and served over 20 years in prison. The parties further agree Torres has shown he is actually innocent of this crime by a preponderance of the evidence.”

The motion indicates that detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department are convinced that two other people are “the true perpetrators and further investigative efforts to gather the evidence sufficient to support a criminal filing against the individuals are ongoing.”

In a statement posted on their website about the case, the California Innocence Project noted that Torres — who was 20 at the time — lived in the territory of the gang to which Guitron belonged and that the two had a “prolonged, well-known adversarial history” and that gang members had “subjected Torres and his family to an ongoing intimidation campaign to drive them out of the neighborhood.”

The California Innocence Project’s statement indicates that the alleged gunman “very closely resembles Torres in age, height, weight and overall physical appearance.”

Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project, said in a statement that he is “thrilled Alex Torres is finally free.”

“This case was ultimately resolved the way all wrongful convictions should be, with the District Attorney’s Office working with us to discover the truth,” Brooks said. “I am very grateful to George Gascón and his Conviction Integrity Unit.”

Audrey McGinn, a California Innocence Project attorney who was the primary lawyer representing Torres, said in the statement that Torres was “so young when he was convicted of a crime he did not commit” and that he “deserves a chance to start to really live his life.”

“I’m so excited to see Alex reunited with his family and loved ones,” McGinn added.

In a written statement released by his office, Gascón said, “While it is this office’s job to hold people accountable for the harm they cause, it is equally important that we critically re-examine past convictions. We must be willing to own up to past errors, determine what went wrong and make sure we do not repeat those mistakes.”

 

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