Donors give $4,500 to Ontario, CA man following overturned conviction
Will Bigham, Staff Writer
ONTARIO - Twenty-five people have donated about $4,500 to a local man who was released from prison last month after a judge overturned his attempted murder conviction.
With the donated money, Rafael Madrigal and his family were able to afford a rental home in Ontario. They lost their home to foreclosure and had until today to vacate the property, he said.
Madrigal's father died in January, and the family was unable to keep up with mortgage payments on the home they had owned since 1995.
The federal appeals process that resulted in Madrigal's release after nine years of incarceration ended last week, with the state Attorney General's Office announcing Thursday that it wouldn't appeal the judge's ruling to a higher court.
A electronic-monitoring bracelet he had worn on his ankle as a bail condition since his release from prison was removed at Thursday's hearing in Santa Ana federal court, Madrigal said.
In overturning his conviction for a 2000 drive-by shooting in East Los Angeles, a federal judge highlighted evidence indicating that Madrigal was innocent of the crime, and faulted Madrigal's defense attorney for failing to effectively assist him.
He was reportedly working at a Rancho Cucamonga factory at the time of the shooting, but his attorney failed to call enough witnesses during his trial to prove the alibi, the judge wrote.
The defense attorney also failed to present a recording to the jury of Madrigal's co-defendant making statements in a phone conversation that point to Madrigal's innocence.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is now reviewing Madrigal's case and has until mid-January to decide whether to bring the case to trial, said a district attorney spokeswoman.
Madrigal is scheduled to appear Jan. 8 in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom, where prosecutors are expected to announce whether they will take the case to trial, Madrigal said.
When one of Madrigal's son's former schoolteachers learned of the family's financial troubles, she set up a bank account for people to donate to the family.
In less than two weeks, donors gave enough money to help the Madrigals cover a security deposit and the first month's rent at a new home in Ontario, plus moving expenses, Madrigal said.
"It's a big blessing," he said.
Madrigal, a father of three, said he was relieved that his children wouldn't be forced to change schools as a result of the foreclosure and move.
He said he has been looking for work, and even has gone on job interviews, but so far hasn't landed a job.
"It's going to be an uphill battle," Madrigal said. "But I'm hoping I find a job real quick and real soon. And I feel once that happens, we'll be OK."
Madrigal said he hasn't decided whether to bring civil action against his trial attorney or other people or agencies responsible for his apparent wrongful conviction.
"I want all this to be finalized first before any type of consideration is taken into that matter," Madrigal said. "I have to sit down with my attorneys to see what they say and which direction they want to go with this."
||Truth in Justice