By Maya Luna
Community members protested outside the Ventura County Courthouse on Monday, where a Superior Court judge would decide whether or not to reverse the conviction of Ignacio Ixta Jr., who had already served 11 years of a 35-years to life sentence at Pelican Bay State Prison for the conviction of attempted murder. By the end of the protest it was announced to the crowd’s jubilation that the conviction had been reversed and Ignacio Jr. would be released.
Around 50 supporters attended the protest, including Ignacio Jr.’s parents and son, marching in circles at the front of the courthouse, holding protest signs and banners while chanting, “Free Ignacio!” and “Jail the oppressors! Free the oppressed!”
Ignacio Jr.’s parents, Alma and Ignacio Sr., spoke to the crowd about their son’s incarceration, condemning the justice system for his wrongful imprisonment. “It’s been 11 years, 3 months, and 3 weeks of this injustice, and I don’t want it to happen to nobody else,” Alma said. “We need to change this system.”
In 2010, Ignacio Jr. was found guilty by a jury of attempted murder of Miguel Cortez in Oxnard, CA. The guilty verdict was decided under false pretense, with detectives choosing to include Ignacio Jr. in a lineup of suspects due to his loose connection to a family member who was believed to be gang-affiliated and living in the area of the shooting. Ignacio Jr. himself had no connection to gangs.
For ten years, Ignacio Jr.’s parents have fought tirelessly to prove their son’s innocence, through legal means and by organizing protests to gain community support, spending their life savings in the process. With the help of pro bono attorney Philip Dunn, and pro bono private investigator Natalie Cherot, evidence further proving Ignacio Jr.’s innocence was recently uncovered and approved by the district attorney for review.
During the investigation there were witnesses, including the victim’s brother-in-law, who stated that Ignacio Jr. was not the shooter because he did not fit the description they had given. During the trial only one of three witnesses testified in court, while the other two were never contacted by the prosecution.
The victim also told investigators he “couldn’t be sure” that Ignacio was the shooter, with his identification coming only after he was enticed by the prosecution’s promises of reduced medical expenses via the Victim Restitution Fund. The prosecution was also found to have hidden details which would have further helped the defense, failing to pass the evidence along to Ignacio Jr.’s team.
“I’ve never trusted in the justice system—never. Even prior to this conviction I’ve never had any faith,” said Wendy Galvan, the mother of Ignacio Jr.’s son. “We know that they are unjust. His last name is Ixta. That’s an Aztec last name. It’s a very Mexican last name. And so they connected him to things that have nothing to do with him. It’s just because the color of his skin and where he comes from.”
Monday’s protest ended in tears of joy, with family and supporters rejoicing after receiving the news that the conviction was reversed and Ignacio Jr. would be released, a victory of their long, hard struggle against the Old State’s backwards legal system.
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