On March 10, 1946, 56-year-old Deputy Sheriff Fred T. Guiol was shot to death in his car in Los Angeles, California, by a young man with a Colt automatic. The eyewitness to the shooting, Pearl Rattenbury, described the shooter as in his early twenties, Latino, dark-complexioned, small and slender in stature. In July 1946, the Los Angeles police received a tip that Daniel Kamacho, a 23-year-old Iowa native of Mexican descent, might be the killer. Kamacho fit the physical description of the eyewitness and, according to the tipster, was carrying a Colt automatic. Kamacho was questioned by the police and denied knowledge of the murder. When Kamacho was placed in a line-up with other men sharing similar physical characteristics, Pearl Rattenbury decisively identified Kamacho as Guiol’s killer.
After his arrest, Kamacho confessed to the murder of Guiol and stated that he was unclear on the details of the murder because he was “high” on marijuana at the time. Kamacho was then indicted for first-degree murder and Public Defender Ellery Cuff was appointed as Kamacho’s counsel.
Kamacho admitted to Cuff that his confession was voluntary. Because Rattenbury was so confident in her identification of Kamacho, Kamacho assumed that she was correct and that he had committed the murder. However, upon further questioning by Cuff, Kamacho realized that in March 1946, he was in Juarez, Mexico, and that he had spent several days in jail while he was there. Cuff wrote to authorities in Juarez, Mexico, to confirm whether or not Kamacho was in prison the night of Guiol’s murder. Cuff did not receive a response to his inquiry, so he contacted Kamacho’s relatives in Mexico to ask them to check with the authorities to see if they could obtain such confirmation.
By the time Kamacho’s jury trial for the murder of Guiol began, Cuff had not received any confirmation from Mexican authorities regarding Kamacho’s imprisonment A recess was granted when Cuff was notified that Kamacho’s sister was traveling from Mexico with information important to the case. Kamacho’s sister then testified that Kamacho was in jail in Juarez on the day of the murder, but officials in Juarez had refused to give her records proving that Kamacho was indeed in prison in Juarez on that date.
In March 1947, Kamacho was convicted of the first-degree murder of Guiol and sentenced to life imprisonment. Shortly after the trial, both the Los Angeles police and the prosecutor’s office agreed to assist Cuff in an investigation to determine whether or not Kamacho was incarcerated in Juarez at the time of Guiol’s murder. An employee of the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office traveled to Juarez and confirmed with Mexican authorities that a man named Kamacho had been in the Juarez jail from March 3, 1946 through March 11, 1946.
In April 1947, Detective Gilbert Encinas, a Spanish-speaking officer (the man who had arrested Kamacho in Los Angeles), Deputy District Attorney Fred Henderson (the man who had prosecuted Kamacho), and Cuff traveled to Juarez and finally obtained the jail records proving Kamacho was in jail on the night of Guiol’s murder. On May 2, 1947, Encinas, Henderson, and Cuff presented to the court in Los Angeles documentary evidence that Kamacho had been in jail in Juarez on March 10, 1946. Kamacho’s conviction was then set aside and the indictment against him was dismissed. He was freed from prison on May 2, 1947. Kamacho was not compensated for the time he spent in custody.
– Researched by Nicole Murphy
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.