County of Conviction: Los Angeles
Convicted of: First-Degree Murder
Sentence: 25 Years to Life
Years Served: 9 Years
Released: October 6, 2009
Cost of Wrongful Incarceration: $405,000
U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess granted a petition filed by the California Innocence Project and Attorney Eric Multhaup, effectively reversing the 2002 murder conviction of Rafael Madrigal. The decision follows the recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc Goldman. Madrigal is the third person in three months to be exonerated by the California Innocence Project, based at California Western School of Law in San Diego.
Madrigal and co-defendant Francisco Olivares were charged with committing a drive-by shooting in East Los Angeles on behalf of the Ford Maravilla gang and convicted in January of 2002.
Witnesses testified that Madrigal and Olivares committed the July 2000 shooting. Madrigal contended his innocence from the beginning; at the time of the shooting he was at work at Proactive Packaging & Display in Rancho Cucamonga, approximately 35 miles away.
The petition submitted on Madrigal’s behalf established his alibi and argued that his trial counsel was ineffective in his representation, failing to call an alibi witness or properly investigate the case.
During an evidentiary hearing on November 3, 2008, alibi witness Robert Howards, Madrigal’s direct supervisor at Proactive, testified that the production line would have shut down had Madrigal not been at work. Madrigal was the only employee trained to operate the laminating machine and his failure to operate that piece of machinery would have impacted production. Howards was never called as a witness, despite his submission of a notarized alibi statement in Madrigal’s defense.
An audio tape was also produced during the evidentiary hearing. On the tape was a telephone conversation between Olivares and his girlfriend. In the conversation, Olivares admits that Madrigal was not involved in the shooting, nor did he know any details of the crime. The audio tape was never entered as evidence. The alibi witness and audio tape prove Madrigal’s innocence. Together, both pieces of evidence were crucial in the reversal of Madrigal’s conviction.
“Rafael should never have been convicted of this crime,” says Justin P. Brooks, Director of the California Innocence Project and Professor of Law at California Western School of Law. “I am so pleased that the truth has come out. He is another innocent victim of a flawed justice system.”