Murder case dismissed against man who served 25 years for gang-related Los Angeles killing
LOS ANGELES — A California man who spent 25 years in prison for a 1994 killing had his murder conviction dismissed Wednesday because the court said he didn't receive a fair trial.
Arturo Jimenez, 44, had his case dismissed with prejudice, meaning it cannot be refiled, although the Los Angeles County district attorney's office already had moved to dismiss the charges, Superior Court Judge Ronald S. Coen said in his decision.
Jimenez was convicted of first-degree murder. Prosecutors said he shot a rival gang member, 14-year-old Hugo Colmenarez, during a confrontation involving 15 to 20 people at a Los Angeles gas station.
“Jimenez has always maintained that he was nearby when he heard the shots, drove his blue Blazer to see if anyone needed help, and when he got to the gas station, people jumped in his car through the open back window and told him to leave," said a statement from the non-profit Northern California Innocence Project, which helped represent him.
Jimenez was convicted based on his identification by a young woman “in the backseat of a car who saw the shooter for only a moment" and who later said she made an identification under police pressure, the statement said.
A friend of the victim who was standing next to him when he was shot told police the driver of the Blazer wasn't the shooter. But Jimenez's lawyer — who has since been disbarred — never presented that and other evidence of Jimenez's innocence at trial, according to a court petition filed by his lawyers last year.
In Wednesday's ruling, the judge said the Los Angeles County district attorney's office conceded that Jimenez was “deprived of the assistance of constitutionally effective counsel."
Jimenez, who was released on parole in April, said in the statement that “the past is my present. I’m still in survival mode.”
He is working and “hopes to explore counseling and educational opportunities," the statement said.
“This is one of those cases that shows how frighteningly easy it is to get wrongfully convicted," said Paige Kaneb, attorney for the Northern California Innocence Project.
“And it is an honor to represent Arturo, who, despite spending a quarter of a century and his entire adult life in prison, has shown what a kind and gentle person he is even through the worst of circumstances,” she said.