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The Prison Complex

Monday, Nov 23, 2015, 9:48 pm

After 16 Years in Prison DNA Evidence Leads to Exoneration

By George Lavender

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After 16 years in prison, DNA evidence exonerated Lorenzo Vargas as a suspect in three rapes. On Monday a Los Angeles County judge threw out his convictions.  

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the testing indicated that the attacks had likely been carried out by the same assailant suspected in a series of other assaults.

The Los Angeles County district attorney's office joined the attorneys to ask Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan to release Vargas, saying the office “no longer has confidence in the convictions.”

At a hearing Monday afternoon, Vargas appeared in a downtown courtroom handcuffed and dressed in blue jail scrubs. Among his supporters in attendance were his daughter and his mother, who dabbed tears from their eyes as the judge ordered Vargas' case set aside.

Though Vargas was ordered released, he will be placed in federal custody because of an immigration hold, authorities said. 

At his trial, three victims identified Vargas – who had previously served time for forcibly raping a girlfriend – as the man who attacked them. One, a 15-year-old girl, was raped. In the other two cases, Vargas was accused of attacking the victims with the intent of raping them.

Jurors found him guilty even though several co-workers testified that Vargas had been miles away at work when the attacks occurred. Continue reading… 

According to the National Registry of Exonerations last year 22 people were exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence. So far this year 21 people have been exonerated in cases in which DNA evidence was involved, excluding Vargas, although in some of those cases, post-conviction DNA evidence was not central to the case. 

George Lavender is an award-winning radio and print journalist based in Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @GeorgeLavender.

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