In July 2000, a man was shot and injured in a gang related drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, California. Several witnesses identified Rafael Madrigal in a photo lineup as either the shooter or driver of the car involved. These witnesses testified against Madrigal at trial. Madrigal had been at work, a 50 minute drive away, at the time of the shooting. A co-worker could have confirmed his alibi, and his boss could have testified that he was certain Madrigal was at work because he was the only one who knew how to operate one of the machines in the production line. However, Madrigal’s defense attorney called only Madrigal’s supervisor to the stand, who testified that he thought Madrigal was at work, but couldn’t be certain. In addition, Madrigal’s attorney failed to present a recording of Madrigal’s co-defendant admitting that Madrigal was not involved. In January 2002, a jury convicted Madrigal of attempted murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
In 2008, with the help of the California Innocence Project, Madrigal was able to present the evidence his defense counsel failed to present at an evidentiary hearing. In September 2009, a United States District Court judge granted Madrigal’s habeas corpus petition on the basis of his ineffective defense counsel, and overturned his conviction. Madrigal was freed on bail in October 2009, and a retrial was scheduled for October 2010. Prosecutors eventually decided not to retry him.
- Stefanie Denzel