Marco Contreras, 41, was released from Calipatria State Prison on Tuesday. Contreras has spent more than two decades in prison after being wrongfully convicted of Attempted Murder in 1997. The Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent (LPI) is the main contributor to his release. Over the past 20 Years, they’ve pointed out several inconvenient factors that resulted in the false conviction of Contreras. His sentence was a result of what happened after a shooting and robbery took place at a Compton gas station in 1996.

Prior to conviction

Marco was at home resting in his house when he let someone borrow his vehicle.

When the armed robbery escalated, his car was in the area. One of the eyewitnesses on the scene mistakenly identified Contreras as the shooter. They eyewitness testified in court she wasn’t certain that the man she identified was Contreras. However, he was still convicted and sentenced to prison for life.

“This is a huge problem,” said Adam Grant. He's been the attorney for Contreras. He is also the LPI's Program Director. He added back then, “It’s a thorny problem because the public considers it reliable.”

The fight for his release

The Sheriff’s Department and district attorney found that Marco Contreras was innocent of the crime and wrongfully convicted. The Loyola law school project petitioned Judge William Ryan to release him after law enforcement arrested another person in the case that had a strikingly similar appearance to Contreras.

Chief Deputy District Attorney John K. Spillane mentioned to the judge, “Newly discovered evidence suggests that a person other than Marco is guilty of the attempted murder of Jose Garcia.”

Last week, Judge Ryan finally acknowledged Contreras's innocence. He released him during a hearing before the Los Angeles Superior Court.

A free man

"The court finds the petitioner to be factually innocent," Judge William Ryan stated at the court hearing.

Contreras added, “I just had to be patient, and wait.” He noted that his release from prison would eventually have to happen.

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levinson attended the hearing. She strongly acknowledged that this man’s release was not due to a technicality.

“He got out because he’s actually innocent,” she said.

After two decades of confined turmoil, Marco Contreras remained in good graces. “I’d like to thank you for allowing me to be here,” he said to the courtroom on Tuesday. “Also, the D.A. — I’d like to say thank you to everybody.”

Warning him that the world has changed in the past 20 years, Judge Ryan told Contreras, “This is a new chapter. Good luck to you, sir.”

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