On Monday (April 18), Joaquin Ciria was released from prison after spending 32 years behind bars for the murder of his friend.
Ciria was convicted in 1991 for the shooting death of Felix Bastarrica in San Francisco. Throughout his time in prison, the 61-year-old always maintained his innocence.
The San Francisco District Attorney’s Innocence Commission was able to have Ciria exonerated after meticulously analyzing his case — which got their attention in 2020.
“Our office is proud of and grateful for the work of the Innocence Commission in rectifying the wrongful conviction of Mr. Ciria,” San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said in a press release.
Boudin continued, “Wrongful convictions continue to plague our justice system at great cost to the families, victims, and accused persons whose lives are devastated when the wrong person is convicted of a crime. Prosecutors have a duty to promote justice and correct injustices. Mr. Ciria spent more than 30 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Although we cannot give him back the decades of his life lost we are thankful that the court has corrected this miscarriage of justice.”
When the crime occurred, no physical evidence linked Ciria. Boudin stated that members of the San Francisco Police Department went after Ciria “based on rumors on the street and statements of the getaway driver, George Varela.”
The wrongfully convicted man had witnesses who could confirm his alibi, but they were never allowed to speak at his trial.
Varela later received immunity for his testimony and stated that police pressured him into naming Ciria.
Ciria’s mother, Yojana Paiz, told the press, “It’s very hard, you know? Seeing your kid; them taking away your son. It’s sad, seeing your child growing up by himself. 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.”
The California Victim Compensation Board says that according to state law, Ciria is eligible for financial compensation. The total is just over $1.6 million, which is the equivalent to $140 per day for the 32 years he spent in jail.