×
61-Year-Old Man Is Finally Being Released After Spending Three Decades in Prison for a Crime He Did Not Commit

61-Year-Old Man Is Finally Being Released After Spending Three Decades in Prison for a Crime He Did Not Commit

He was convicted for the muder of his best friend in 1991.

A black man from San Francisco who has spent most of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit, is being finally released.

Joaquin Ciria was convicted for the murder of his best friend, Felix Bastarrica, in 1991. Ciria's involvement in the crime was not proven by tangible evidence. Instead, San Francisco police inspectors charged him "based on rumors on the street and statements of the getaway driver, George Varela," according to a statement released by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Bastarrica was murdered by a mutual acquaintance of Varela and Ciria, per a press release from North Carolina Innocence Project.

 



 

 

Ciria was exonerated on Monday, 32 years after his wrongful incarceration, after a comprehensive examination and inquiry by the San Francisco District Attorney's Innocence Commission. In return for complete immunity, Verala testified he drove Ciria to and from the crime site. However, he was under extreme pressure from police at the time to identify Ciria, despite Ciria having two alibi witnesses who were never heard at trial. He was asked by the police to testify against Ciria or he would be charged with murder instead.

Ciria's mother Yojana Paiz spoke to KPIX, "It's very hard, you know? Seeing your kid; them taking away your son. It's sad, seeing your child growing up by himself." She added, "But finally, we're here. We're at the end now. He's gonna be out. Whatever God has for us, we have to accept it." According to the district attorney, new information given by Ciria's legal team proved that he was convicted based on fraudulent testimony for another man's crime.

 



 

 

Ciria's attorneys, Ellen Eggers and Paige Kaneb of the Northern California Innocence Project, presented his case to the DA's Innocence Commission for consideration, and after a four-month inquiry. Boudin decided to exonerate Ciria after looking at the tangible evidence and proceedings of the case. 

Boudin said, "Promoting justice in our legal system requires us not only to move forward but also to look backwards. Wrongful convictions cause concentric circles of harm: to the wrongfully convicted, to the crime victims who were told a false story and re-traumatized, to the jurors who unwittingly participated in the injustice, and to the integrity of the system as a whole." Ciria is presently being held at the San Francisco County prison after being transferred from Folsom Prison last week, according to Eggers, and is scheduled to be freed within the next week, per CNN.

 



 

 

Ciria is entitled to financial compensation under California state law, at a rate of $140 per day for the 32 years he spent in jail. This amount will reach over $1.6 million dollars, per California Victim Compensation Board. Kaneb said in a statement, "We are delighted for Joaquin, who fought for so long to clear his name. He can now spend time with his 32-year-old son, who was a baby when his father was wrongfully taken away from him.” 

Lara Bazelon, Professor at the University of San Francisco and a member of the Innocence Commission apologized to Ciria's mother, "And so to Mr. Ciria, and to his family who is here today, on behalf of the Innocence Commission, I would like to apologize to you. We cannot give you back those lost decades. I hope that today with our actions and the court’s ruling, you can move forward knowing that you have been exonerated."

References: 

https://www.sfdistrictattorney.org/press-release/da-boudin-announces-exoneration-of-joaquin-ciria-in-32-year-old-wrongful-conviction-case-following-investigation-by-das-innocence-commission/

https://ncip.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Copy-of-Joaquin-Ciria-Press-Release.pdf

https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/19/us/joaquin-ciria-soma-murder-exonerated/index.html

https://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2022/04/18/joaquin-ciria-wrongfully-convicted-exonerated-murder-felix-bastarrica-san-francisco/