IE man freed after conviction overturned

ONTARIO, Calif. The nightmare is finally over for Raphael Madrigal Junior. His conviction has been reversed, and he's back home with his family and friends after spending nine years behind bars.

A man who had been shot in the head and another witness said it was Raphael Madrigal who pulled the trigger. They picked him out of a photo line-up. Madrigal was convicted and sent to prison. But Madrigal maintained his innocence. And Tuesday, he was a free man.

It's a moment almost a decade in the making, a man who has spent the last nine years behind bars has returned home after his conviction on attempted murder was overturned by a federal judge.

"Happiness," said Madrigal. "Happiness to be back home."

Madrigal embraced his family, his wife and two children outside their home in Ontario. The man says he was wrongly accused of a gang-related shooting in East Los Angeles in July 2000.

"At times it was hard, but you just have to cope with it and look at tomorrow," said Madrigal. "You can't let what it is get to you and eat you up."

Madrigal's conviction was overturned after a district judge ruled that his attorney had failed to present evidence at trial. Madrigal, who was incarcerated at the California Institute for Men in Chino, says his lawyer never told the jury that he was 30 miles away when the shooting took place.

"Just like Raphael, I had some degree of basic confidence that this one would come to an appropriate ending," said Eric Malthaup, Madrigal's current attorney."

A law student worked with the Innocence Project to help win Madrigal's release.

"For me it really solidified how important criminal defense work is," said Linda Johnson, California Innocence Project. "If Mr. Madrigal had gotten an attorney to begin with who did a sufficient job, we wouldn't be here right now."

Madrigal's young children say they are glad to have their father back home, and Madrigal has only one word of advice.

"Cherish your freedom," said Madrigal. "Cherish your freedom -- don't take it for granted. And enjoy every day you've got."

Prosecutors have 60 days to decide if Madrigal should be retried for the shooting nine years ago. Madrigal maintains that he was at work in Ontario when the shooting happened.

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