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California Prisoner Exonerated but Now Faces Deportation

California Prisoner Exonerated but Now Faces Deportation

On November 23, 2015, a Los Angeles judge ordered the release of 46-year-old Luis Vargas, who had served 16 years in prison for sexual assault and other charges. Vargas, a legal immigrant prior to his arrest, was immediately taken into federal custody while officials investigated his immigration status because his green card had been revoked upon his conviction.

According to attorneys, witnesses had mistakenly identified Vargas because he lived near the crime scenes and had a similar tattoo as the “Teardrop Rapist,” who was linked to at least 35 sexual assaults in Los Angeles since 1996. Although Vargas continually maintained his innocence, he was convicted in 1999 and sentenced to 55 years in prison.

He then reached out to the California Innocence Project, pointing to reports of crimes identical to the ones he was convicted of committing, which had occurred while he was behind bars. Attorneys requested new DNA testing, which linked the crimes for which Vargas was serving time to others committed by the Teardrop Rapist.

“The best thing about this case was that technology had advanced to the point where we were able to determine that this DNA evidence could be used to show that this other person committed the crime,” said Alex Simpson, associate director of the California Innocence Project.

Vargas remains in custody on the immigration hold; the Teardrop Rapist has never been identified or caught.



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