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Vicente Benavides Freed After 25 Years on California’s Death Row

By Innocence Staff

UPDATE: Vicente Benavides was released from prison on April 19, 2018. 

Vicente Benavides, 68, spent nearly 25 years on California’s death row for the 1991 sexual assault and murder of 21-month-old Consuelo Verdugo before the California Supreme Court overturned his conviction on March 12, 2018.  Benavides is represented by Cristina Borde of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center.

Related: Report: Death Penalty Sees Continued Decline in 2017

On Tuesday, the Kern County District Attorney’s office announced it would be dropping all charges against Benavides: “Our professional and ethical standards require us to decline to re-try the case when, upon an objective review of the facts, there is insufficient evidence to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Benavides’ conviction was based on false medical testimony introduced at trial. In its decision, the court concluded that Verdugo had never been sexually assaulted and may actually have died from being hit by a car.

At trial, a forensic pathologist testified that Verdugo had died as a result of anal injuries from being sodomized. Numerous medical doctors testified that her injuries were the result of sexual assault.

Years later, many doctors who testified to the cause of Verdugo’s injuries recanted their testimony. They stated they had not reviewed Verdugo’s full medical record, which did not reveal any evidence of sexual assault when she was first hospitalized. During post-conviction proceedings, Benavides’ lawyers presented evidence from one of the country’s leading experts on child abuse who further discredited the medical testimony presented at trial.

In its decision, the court also concluded that the injuries to Verdugo’s genitalia and anus that doctors at trial had cited were evidence of sexual assault were actually the result of medical treatment Verdugo received after she arrived at the hospital.

Until a court order to release Benavides is submitted, he will remain on death row at San Quentin prison. Once the order is submitted, Benavides could be released quickly—within hours or days.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, Benavides will be the fourth person exonerated from California’s death row since 1980. He will be the 162nd person exonerated from the United States’ death row since 1973.

 

6 Comments

  1. Larry Lewin

    The question is: Will Benavides sue the prosecutor and those who withheld evidence that the doctors never saw? Those responsible for his conviction plus the city and/or county and/or state owe him millions.

  2. Jay Hopper

    The prosecution team need to be held accountable for their involvement with this case. This should include the doctors that changed their mind… years later. WTH were they thinking of when they gave testimony to lock and/or possibly exterminating an innocent man?

  3. Patty Clary

    Who is going to take care of this poor fellow? He needs help with his daily life, and shouldn’t have to worry about bills, housing, etc. He needs to just enjoy life, what he has left of it.

  4. Linda Glasper

    It’s mainly prosecutors who are responsible for misconduct I feel. They’re the ones with all the power. Instead of actually doing what they’re suppose to do which is find and present evidence that actually prove the defendant is guilty instead of falsifying evidence just so they can win a case. Not caring whether their choices send an innocent person to prison, to death row, or even executed. Then there’s also others who are willing to testify for many reasons for the prosecutors when those testimonies are not factual. Some which were coerced after intimidation and those are the only ones I’ll understand somewhat. Even with them I can’t imagine doing those things to someone just to save myself when I know it’s not true. I’d like to know why medical professionals would get on the stand and testify to something when they haven’t even seen proof of that ? When they only read the first paragraph and not the whole article. When they can’t even prove what they’re saying. That’s like going to your doctor and he tells you that you got cancer only after one blood test and without further investigation or tests. A good doctor would usually ask for your past medical history so they have a graph to see what may have led up to what problems you have today. It’s very disturbing what’s happening in our criminal justice system, and we all should be outraged about it. I’m very happy to know Mr. Vicente Benavides finally got justice and his freedom. Congratulations to him.

  5. patrick van kan

    If he is in need of anything until he gets settled or gets his payment from the government.
    I’m willing to donate What ever is needed . Just contact me at [email protected]

  6. Merrill Jenkins

    The JURY has the right to ASK questions and to investigate as well. They are responsible but do not know it because the JUDGES and the LAWYERS at court keep information from them as well. They Are TOLD what to think and how to think. This is a FARCE. A JURY needs to be populated with at least some JURISTS not bodies of non thinking toadies of the Court. I am not blaming the folks on the JURY, they are the ones being lied to and manipulated more than anyone. A person on the Jury should be Familiar with the Law and at least have read the Constitution or the USA as well as his state. The dictionary defines a juror as A group of people selected to apply the law, as stated by the judge, to the facts of a case and render a decision, called the verdict. .
    The fact is a Juror should READ the medical report themselves and ask for more information even the prosecutor or defense attorney have not provided it.
    Chief Justice John Jay said: “It is
    presumed, that juries are the
    best judges of facts; it is,
    on the other hand, presumed t
    hat courts are the best
    judges of law. But still both objects are within your
    power of decision.” (emphasis added)
    “…you have a
    right to take it upon yourselves to judge of both,
    and to determine the law as well as the fact in
    controversy”
    To be forced to to apply the law, as stated by the judges, assumes that you have a Judges that is not corrupt, bias, informed himself and has no prejudice or agendas their selves, and that is simply assuming FACTS not in evidence

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