True Crime News Roundup: Man Incarcerated For Decades On Murder Charges Declared Innocent

Plus: Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin to be unconditionally released; both Johnny Depp and Amber Heard found liable for defamation; gunman kills four, himself at Oklahoma hospital; and woman shot by Missouri police faces charges.

June 03, 2022
Alexander Torres (l) pictured with his mother and LA District Attorney George Gascon. Alex was exonerated in the 2000 murder of Martin Guitron.

Alexander Torres (l) pictured with his mother and LA District Attorney George Gascon. Alex was exonerated in the 2000 murder of Martin Guitron.

Photo by: LA County DA George Gascon via Twitter (@LADAOffice)

LA County DA George Gascon via Twitter (@LADAOffice)

By: Aaron Rasmussen

A man incarcerated for decades on a murder charge in California is declared innocent.

A California man convicted of fatally shooting a rival gang member over two decades ago has been released from prison after a judge found him factually innocent.

Alexander Torres “was so young when he was convicted of a crime he did not commit. He deserves a chance to start to really live his life,” attorney Audrey McGinn from the California Innocence Project said. “I’m so excited to see Alex reunited with his family and loved ones.”

On Dec. 31, 2000, Torres, then a 20-year-old Compton street gang member, was accused of shooting Martin Guitron eight times with a handgun in Paramount.

Almost three weeks later, on Jan. 18, 2001, police arrested Torres and charged him with second-degree murder.

Torres admitted to police that he and the victim had been in fights before, but he insisted he never left home the evening of Guitron’s slaying, the Associated Press reported, citing court documents.

Despite relatives testifying that Torres had a broken finger and a cast on his arm at the time of the shooting, in June 2001, he was convicted of personally using a gun to commit homicide.

In October 2021, a judge set aside Torres’ conviction and 40-year sentence after the district attorney's office presented evidence another man was responsible for the shooting — information a private investigator hired by Torres’ brother discovered in 2006.

According to the AP, the getaway driver who was reportedly at the shooting denied to the P.I. that Torres was involved in the shooting and claimed another man was responsible, one who closely resembled Torres.

The shooter that the getaway driver claimed killed Guitron is currently serving time for armed robberies committed not long after the incident, the AP reported.

According to the outlet, prosecutors are currently working on a possible case against the suspected shooter.

Judge confirms John Hinckley Jr., who shot Ronald Reagan, can be unconditionally released on June 15.

John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot President Ronald Regan and nearly assassinated him outside a hotel in Washington on March 30, 1981, will be free from all remaining restrictions and court oversight on June 15.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman confirmed the decision during a June 1 final hearing, noting that although Hinckley once suffered from acute psychosis, he was “no longer a danger to himself or others.”

Following the shooting over 40 years ago, Hinckley, now 67, was found not guilty of the crime by reason of insanity, and he was committed to a psychiatric facility in D.C.

Beginning in 2003, he was increasingly allowed to spend time in the community, and in 2016 he began living with his mother in Virginia with restrictions, according to CBS News.

“A big thank you to everyone who helped me get my unconditional release," Hinckley, now an aspiring musician, wrote on Twitter. “What a long strange trip it has been. Now it's time to rock and roll.”

Johnny Depp awarded damages in defamation trial against Amber Heard.

On June 1, a jury ruled against actors Amber Heard and Johnny Depp in their defamation lawsuits against each other.

Depp, however, was awarded a total of $15 million in damages — $10 million in compensatory damages and $ 5 million in punitive damages — while Heard was granted $2 million in compensatory damages only, CNN reported.

According to the news outlet, despite never mentioning Depp by name, the jury determined Heard defamed her ex-husband in three statements made in a 2018 piece she penned for The Washington Post claiming she was the victim of domestic abuse.

The jury found Depp liable for defamation of his former spouse because of one statement his lawyer made.

“From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome,” Depp said, in part, in a statement after the verdict. “Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that.”

He noted that “the jury gave me my life back.”

Heard said in her own statement that the disappointment she now feels “is beyond words.”

“I'm heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband,” she explained. “I'm even more disappointed with what this verdict means for other women. It is a setback. It sets back the clock to a time when a woman who spoke up and spoke out could be publicly shamed and humiliated. It sets back the idea that violence against women is to be taken seriously.”

Police say the Oklahoma man who killed four people at a hospital was targeting his surgeon.

The gunman allegedly responsible for fatally shooting four people at an Oklahoma medical center believed one of the victims, a physician, botched his back surgery, authorities said.

Shortly before 5 p.m. on June 1, The Washington Post reported, Michael Louis, 45, went to the Saint Francis Hospital campus in Tulsa with a .223 caliber semi-automatic rifle and shot dead his surgeon, Dr. Preston Phillips, 59, as well as three others — Dr. Stephanie Husen, 48, nurse Amanda Glenn, 40, and 73-year-old William Love, whose wife was a patient —in the orthopedic offices of the Warren Clinic.

Louis then killed himself.

According to Police Chief Wendell Franklin, the suspected shooter “made it clear” in a letter found on his body “that he came in with the intent to kill Dr. Phillips and anyone who got in his way.”

“He blamed Dr. Phillips for the ongoing pain following the surgery” on May 19, Franklin added of Louis’ “clear motive.”

A woman shot by police in Missouri now faces multiple charges, prosecutors say.

After an investigation, a woman who was shot by police in Missouri was charged on June1 with unlawful possession of a firearm and other crimes, prosecutors said.

Shortly before 8 p.m. on May 27, Kansas City police officers stopped a vehicle that reportedly matched the description of one allegedly involved in an armed carjacking, KMBC reported.

The unidentified male driver exited the vehicle and fled on foot, leaving behind his passenger, 26-year-old Leonna M. Hale.

One witness claimed to The Kansas City Star that police shot Hale multiple times even though she was unarmed and said she couldn’t follow police officers’ orders to get on the ground because she was pregnant. Reverend Timothy Hayes, who says he is working with Hale’s family, said that she is not pregnant.

Body camera video, however, now appears to contradict the witness’s version of events, which prosecutors are calling a “false narrative.”

“Our review of the investigation revealed the defendant, although she denied having a weapon at the time of the encounter with law enforcement officers, continually displayed a weapon during her encounter with police officers and also appeared to be attempting to flee,” Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said.

“The two officers stated that she was armed with what they believed to be a handgun,” Baker continued, claiming, “Body camera footage confirms the officers’ statements that Hale was holding a handgun. Still photos, taken from body cam footage, of this encounter also demonstrate a weapon was present and in the hands of the defendant."

In addition to the firearm possession charge, Hale also faces one count each of unlawful use of a weapon and resisting a lawful detention, according to KMBC.

She is expected to survive her injuries.

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