23 April 2018 :
Vicente Benavides, 68, Hispanic, was freed from San Quinton Prison Thursday afternoon after 26 years on death row. The charges against Benavides were dismissed Thursday afternoon by Superior Court Judge Brian McNamara, according to the District Attorney's office. Benavides became a free man at 3:50 p.m., according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He will receive re-entry services that can include housing assistance, job training and help obtaining a valid identification card. The judge said all Benavides' charges were changed to not guilty. On Tuesday, District Attorney Lisa Green made the announcement that her office would not file charges against Benavides, saying the case would be nearly impossible to retry in court. She said it would be very difficult to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of Benavides' guilt. According to a decision released by the California Supreme Court last month, the convictions of Vicente Benavides in 1993 "were based on false evidence and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel." The decision also says that "false evidence was introduced at trial and that petitioner's convictions of substantive sexual offenses, special-circumstance findings, and judgment of death must be vacated." Benavides was convicted in 1993 of 1st-degree murder, rape, and other charges. He was sentenced to life. He was serving his term on death row in San Quentin. It was asked that his murder conviction be reduced to 2nd-degree murder. That was also thrown out. The judgment has been vacated entirely. Benavides' defense attorney says his client's case is extremely rare, saying only 2 similar cases have occurred since the death penalty was reinstated in the 1970's. The California Supreme Court cited multiple doctors who evaluated 21-month-old Consuelo Verdugo in November 1991 when she died. The baby was taken from the Delano Regional Medical Center to Kern Medical Center then eventually the UCLA Medical Center where she died November 25, 1991. Multiple reports were made by doctors who said based on the inability to insert a catheter, bruising found near Consuelo's genitalia and other factors, they believed she had been sexually assaulted. Benavides has already been entered with the number 162 in the Innocence List compiled by the Death Penalty Information Center, the list of the exonerated, ie first sentenced to death and then completely acquitted. Cases have been counted since 1973. Benavides is the 4th "exonerated" in California since the state reintroduced the death penalty in 1974.