Capitol Alert: California Senate approves $305,900 for wrongfully convicted man

lrosen@sacbee.comJune 30, 2014 

The California Senate on Monday approved paying $305,900 to a man who was imprisoned for a decade after being wrongfully convicted of murder.

The payment spelled out in Senate Bill 1031 is the latest twist in the tale of Mario Rocha, who was convicted along with two others of killing Martin Aceves at a party in Los Angeles in 1996. Rocha was sentenced to 29 years to life in prison. He filed numerous challenges while in prison and in late 2005 a Court of Appeals ruled that Rocha should be set free because he had had ineffective legal representation. In 2008, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office dismissed the charges against him.

"Mario was wrongly convicted at the age of 16 of participating in a gang shooting even though he was never in a gang. Mario spent 10 years in California juvenile justice system as well as our correctional facilities, our prison system," Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, said in presenting the bill on the Senate floor.

"He proved by the preponderance of the evidence that he did not commit the crimes of murder or attempted murder."

Rocha filed a claim against the state for the wrongful conviction. The $305,900 proposed payment reflects the state's standard for paying wrongfully convicted people $100 per day they are imprisoned after they are convicted.

The Senate voted 27-3 to approve the payment, with Republican Sens. Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte and Anthony Cannella of Ceres voting with majority Democrats. The bill now heads to the Assembly for consideration.

De León said Rocha is finishing up his degree at George Washington University. The Washington Post wrote this profile of him beginning his studies there in 2009.

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