Robert Gonzales will be officially exonerated and released from prison after spending nearly three years in jail awaiting trial for the rape and murder of Victoria Sandoval in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The DNA profile from hair and semen left at the crime scene was downloaded again in the CODIS database and hit to an inmate in a neighboring state. More details to follow.
As reported by Scott Sandlin in the Albuquerque Journal, the DNA hit to Israel Diaz, a Mexican national arrested for a burglary. Gonzales had falsely confessed to the slaying of Sandoval in 2005. He was arrested on November 1, 2005 and released on June 28, 2008, meaning he spent nearly two years and eight months in prison for a crime he did not commit.
In the wake of Gonzales's exoneration, the Journal editorial Board skewered local police and prosecutors in a scathing editorial which read, in part:
"It's sickening such an injustice was done to 22-year-old Robert Gonzales. It's terrifying he could have been wrongly convicted. It's maddening the man now tied to the crime by physical evidence might never have faced prosecution. But all are outweighed bypolice and prosecutors' apparent blind, nightmarish determination to stick to a script of least resistance rather than search for real justice..... Thirty-two months is a long time for an innocent man — and he is presumed innocent until proven otherwise — to spend behind bars. This case cries out for review of how police interrogate suspects, especially the young and mentally retarded. The public must have confidence the system is searching for justice, not just churning out a story in which a vulnerable suspect becomes a vulnerable victim."