A man who spent 24 years on death row has been released from prison, the charges against him dismissed after new evidence was brought to light.
Vicente Benavides, 68, was released from San Quentin State Prison just before 4 p.m. Thursday, greeted by friends, family, and attorneys.
Benavides was arrested by Delano police in 1993 for the murder and sexual assault of his then girlfriend’s 21-month-old child, before being sentenced to death.
Doctors testified the girl was sexually assaulted so severely, it caused internal injuries that killed her.
Decades later, those same doctors were presented with medical records they said they had never seen before, and changed their minds.
Child abuse expert Dr. Astrid Heger said she believes the girl was most likely struck by a car and not physically assaulted.
Benavides maintained he does not know what happened to the girl during the 15 minutes the two were alone, and found her outside, unconscious.
Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green said Tuesday she believes Benavides likely still had something to do with the girl’s death, but does not believe he is guilty of what he was convicted of in 1993.
Green said winning a new conviction would be next to impossible, especially after Supreme Court justices said false evidence was used to win his conviction.
Attorneys on both sides said it most likely will never be known what caused such severe internal trauma.
Benavides, a Mexican national, was in the country on a work visa at the time of his arrest. Most of his family still lives in Mexico, but was greeted Thursday by family members throughout California.