How a Bay Area nonprofit helped exonerate SoCal man of murder charge after 25 years

Dustin Dorsey Image
Friday, November 17, 2023
How a Bay Area nonprofit helped exonerate SoCal man after 25 years
"This is the best Christmas present ever," 44-year-old Miguel Solorio said, who is now a free man after spending 25 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- Miguel Solorio is now a free man after spending 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

After receiving legal help from the Northern California Innocence Project, the 44-year-old Southern California man was rightfully exonerated of the crime.

"I feel extremely happy that I'm finally a free man," Solorio said. "I'm a big fan of the Dodgers, Freddie Freeman. And now I'm a 'free man' and exonerated after 25 long years thanks to the dream team of Sarah, Ellen and Paige."

Tears of joy with words of appreciation.

Once facing a life in prison without the possibility of parole, Solorio now gets a life in society.

He's back to enjoying the little things, like a steak dinner while experiencing new things like cell phones.

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All this after spending more than half his life in a Southern California Prison for a murder that he never committed.

"The 25 years experience was devastating," Solorio said. "You've gotta have perseverance. You always got to have hope."

Hope that the truth would eventually set him free.

In 1998, Solorio became a suspect in a fatal drive-by shooting in Whittier after his nickname was linked to the shooting by witnesses.

However, Solorio's lawyers say his face was not picked out of a lineup of six suspect pictures at first.

"The way our brains work, if they had actually seen Miguel at the crime scene they would have been able to pick him out immediately from that first lineup," Northern California Innocence Project Staff Attorney Sarah Pace said. "But police didn't stop there. They showed witnesses more lineups until they got someone to identify him and all that evidence was presented at trial when really it never should've been."

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The Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University found this evidence was mishandled and there was false testimony in the trial.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney set Solorio free on November 10.

The DA's office said in a statement: "We are delighted that the court agreed with our position and vacated Mr. Solorio's convictions. This case presented serious issues of eyewitness misidentification which are common in wrongful convictions. We thank the hard working deputy district attorneys and investigators in our Habeas and Conviction Integrity units for their hard work. We offer our sincere apology to Mr. Solorio and his wife for all they have suffered for over 20 years and thank them for being persistent and not losing faith. We will continue to strive to learn from wrongful convictions to prevent them from occurring in the future."

"We are so glad that justice has finally come to fruition," Pace said.

"To turn the wheels of justice no matter how slowly or quickly at the end was the best experience of my life," NCIP Advanced Clinical Student Caitlin Edwards said.

Solorio says an adjustment period is underway from life in 1998 to 2023, but he's excited for the promise of the future and the gift of freedom.

"This is the best Christmas present ever," Solorio said. "After 25 years, amazing. I'm just so happy and this is like, surreal, that this is even happening and I'm thankful that I'm finally going to spend it with my family and my loved ones."