Man who spent 24 years on death row to walk free after conviction overturned

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Vicente Benavides, 68, has spent 24 years on death row at San Quentin.

On Thursday he is expected to walk out the gates of the prison, a free man.

“Of course we are elated for Mr. Benavides, we think that was the right decision, we think that was the only decision,” said Michael Hersek with the Habeas Corpus Resource Center, which represented Benavides.

His freedom comes after the State Supreme Court ruled his 1993 conviction for the sexual assault and murder of his girlfriend’s 21-month-old daughter was based on false evidence.  

“Everyone agrees now there was no sexual assault,” said Hersek.

Hersek says when medical experts re-reviewed all the evidence, from all the hospitals the child was taken to, they concluded injuries originally attributed to sexual assault were due to medical procedures used to try and save her life.

“This is another example of another significant error made at the trial that could have resulted in the execution of an innocent man,” said Hersek.

Now the District Attorney in Kern County has chosen not to retry Benavides, meaning his life on death row will come to end, but not the one most were expecting.

The hearing to release Benavides is now scheduled for sometime Thursday afternoon.

He could walk out of the prison any time after that hearing is complete. 

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