Rafael Madrigal, Jr. embraced his children—Kimberly, 8, Raphael, 11, and Andrew, 15—and his wife Veronica after his release in October 2009 from a California prison. See video (here). A federal judge overturned his conviction for attempted murder related to a drive-by shooting after Madrigal had served 9 years in prison. The reversal was based on evidence supporting Madrigal’s innocence that his attorney never presented to the jury.
As reported (here) by the California Innocence Project, U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess granted a petition filed by the California Innocence Project and Attorney Eric Multhaup. The decision followed the recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Marc Goldman.
Madrigal was convicted primarily on eyewitness’s selection of his photo from a photo lineup.
Based on evidence presented at an evidentiary hearing years after Madrigal’s conviction, it would have been impossible for Madrigal to have been at the crime scene. He always claimed innocence and said he was at work 35 miles away. He was the only person at Proactive Packaging & Display in Rancho Cucamonga qualified to operate a laminating machine at the plant, and his supervisor indicated that his absence would have impacted production.
A secretly recorded audio tape of a phone conversation between another man convicted with Madrigal also indicated that Madrigal wasn’t involved and didn’t know who was responsible for the shooting.
Additionally, Madrigal passed a polygraph test administered by a 23-year FBI veteran.
A law student working with the California Innocence Project told ABC 7 News (here), “For me it really solidified how important criminal defense work is. If Mr. Madrigal had gotten an attorney to begin with who did a sufficient job, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
“Bad lawyering” has been one of many consistent contributors to wrongful convictions. In retrospect, the evidence supporting innocence often appears obvious and substantial in many cases. However, if discovered after conviction due to an inadequate investigation or effort by defense counsel, correcting the error is often a laborious, time-consuming, costly endeavor. The California Innocence Project quantified the financial cost of Madrigal’s wrongful incarceration alone to be $405,000.