After 12 and a half years of being in prison, Rubén Martínez Jr. savored freedom by proving that he was innocent of a series of armed robberies in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, for which he received a sentence of almost 50 years.

"Everything went very fast. In September, my case was taken by the Condemnation Review Unit of the Los Angeles County Prosecutor; and on November 6 I left free with the promise to return to hear the final decision of the judge after reviewing my case, ”says Ruben, 49.

When he and his wife Maria learned about the creation of the Conviction Review Unit, they contacted the county prosecutor's office to request that the case be reviewed since the alibi given by the Hispanic were never sufficiently explored at the time of judgment.

Rubén Martínez Jr. has been able to enjoy meals that he didn't try in prison for years. (photo provided).

Rubén always claimed that he was at work at the time the crimes were committed.

“I worked in Studio City. The crimes took place in Boyle Heights, and I had no car. Nor did they investigate people who could testify that I was at work, ”he says.

The complaint sent to the Conviction Review Unit of the Los Angeles County Prosecutor mobilized prosecutors and investigators to seek new evidence that led to Martinez's exoneration.

"This case caught our attention because it was a prisoner who was not represented by a lawyer, which is a powerful example that we need sentence review units," says Los Angeles County Attorney Jackie Lacey.

When Rubén learned that he was going to be free, he says he was so excited that he spent sleepless nights because of the happiness of reuniting with his wife Maria with whom he had married on December 9, 2006. The honeymoon did not last long because months later, on June 1, 2001 he was arrested.

“Unlike other couples who divorce at the time of an accusation and conviction of a crime, I always believed in Rubén's innocence. Many people told me to divorce, but I loved him and had married him to be good and bad. Unfortunately, the bad came first, ”says María Martínez, Rubén's wife.

Ruben and María Martínez got married in December 2006. (photo provided)

The Hispanic laughs out loud when he remembers when the judge revoked his long sentence of 47 years and 8 months. "ANDOn November 13, they cleared my record of all charges and crimes”, Precise.

The detectives who accompanied him at the exit of the state prison where he was held, invited him to lunch. “I asked them to take me to hamburgers. They were surprised. I thought I was going to ask for something else. But I wanted so much to eat a cheeseburger with cheese and onion slices. I also ordered a strawberry milkshake, ”he says.

And he says that going free was a time of great happiness because for years he asked God crying to help him get free. “You know that I did not commit those crimes. I was not Dad. Help me out of here, ”he implored.

“I believe that God used Jackie Lacey, the Los Angeles county prosecutor, to release me through the Conviction Review Unit she created. It has been a true miracle, ”he believes fervently.

“Mr. Martínez's case serves as a hard reminder to all of us that despite our best efforts, we don't always do the right thing,” says Prosecutor Lacey.

In an audience, this month, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William Ryan revoked Martinez's sentence, ordered his release, dismissed his case forever and found that he was innocent of all the crimes for which he was convicted.

Martinez was involved in a series of unsolved armed robberies that took place between December 2005 and May 2007 in the same mechanical workshop in Boyle Heights.

Due to a great physical resemblance to the person responsible, eyewitnesses identified him with the offender; and at the trial, his alibis were not well raised, which made the 12 jurors find him guilty.

Rubén and María Martínez together again. (Photo provided)

The jurors convicted Martinez on nine counts of second-degree robbery in a new trial. In the first trial, the jury voted 9 to 3 in favor of the guilty verdict.

He was sentenced to 47 years and 8 months in a state prison. But Ruben never gave up, and appealed several times. However, their demands for justice were denied over and over again..

The prosecutors of the assigned Conviction Review Unit had to reopen the investigation, and exhaustively spoke with witnesses, studied work records and paychecks that confirmed that Martinez could not have committed two of the robberies clearly perpetrated by the same serial thief .

"This time, during the review, investigators were able to talk to my wife and different people, bosses and coworkers who proved that I was there at work at the time the crimes occurred," says Ruben.

On November 1, Assistant Attorney Andrea Bouas asked the court to release Martinez on the promise that he would return. On Tuesday, November 2, the Angelino was released.

“When I conceived this unit, my hope was to make the review process available not only to lawyers or Innocent Projects (organizations that advocate those convicted wrongly) but to the prisoners themselves,” says prosecutor Lacey.

Rubén and María Martinez were captured in prison during one of their wife's visits. (Photo provided)

Martínez's case marks the first time that an inmate who is not represented by a lawyer is exonerated in Los Angeles County through the conviction review process.

Prosecutor Lacey established this Conviction Review Unit in 2015 as part of her commitment to innovative criminal justice reform.

“As prosecutors we have a legal obligation and an ethical mandate to ensure that the right person is convicted of the crime he is accused of; and that a wrong person never has to defend himself against unfair charges, ”prosecutor Lacey said.

"For that reason, when we receive new credible information that can exonerate a person, we have the responsibility as prosecutors to reexamine the facts and when appropriate, revoke unfair sentences," he says.

Rubén says that after more than 12 years behind bars, he was surprised to go free and see the great skyscrapers of Los Angeles as well as discover that the air is now cleaner. But it also struck him to see the high price of gasoline and the general increase in prices as well as observing that people spend their time looking at their cell phone.

"What I most want now is to get a well-paid job," he says. And he says that being a free man "feels very good."

Rubén and María Martínez meet up with friends and family. (Photo provided).

Since its creation, the Conviction Assessment Unit has received more than 1,900 claims of unfair sentences. The Los Angeles County Prosecutor's Office asserts that most do not meet the requirements to be eligible, the Unit examines about 350 cases.

Rubén's is the third sentence that has been revoked since Unity was established; A sentence was reduced.


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