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2 men exonerated after years in prison for 2000 Downey killing

Two men who were convicted for a 2000 killing in Downey they did not commit were officially exonerated Wednesday after spending years behind bars.

Ronald Velasquez Jr. and Abraham Villalobos were convicted in 2001 for the shooting death of Michael Roybal, who was shot as he opened the door of an apartment he was visiting on Deming Street in Downey, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Despite initially saying she could not see the perpetrators, a witness to the shooting positively identified Velasquez and Villalobos during the trial. Velasquez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. Villalobos was convicted of second-degree murder as an abettor of the crime, and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

Villalobos was paroled in 2015, but according to the Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent, he was immediately deported to Mexico and has been unable to return to see his family in Los Angeles.

According to prosecutors, Velasquez filed a conviction review request with the District Attorney’s Office in 2021, and new evidence pointed to a man named Sergio Torres as the gunman. Torres was killed in a drive-by shooting in October 2001, prosecutors said.

In court Wednesday, Velasquez and Villalobos were both declared factually innocent, and Velasquez was released from custody.

“Our commitment to seeking the truth is unwavering,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement. “The exoneration of these two men serves as a reminder of the importance of accountability within our own office and throughout the justice system.”

Velasquez’s attorney, John Hanusz, called the exoneration a long time coming.

“Ronald Velasquez Jr. and his family worked tirelessly for more than 20 years to demonstrate his innocence, and their pleas for justice fell on deaf ears — until today,” Hanusz said in a statement. “Mr. Velasquez Jr.’s exoneration also would not have been possible but for the pro bono work of private investigator Dana Orent.”


Source: NBC Los Angeles

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