Alex Torres was exonerated after wrongly serving 20 years behind bars
LOS ANGELES – A host of Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department officers are accused of manufacturing and withholding evidence to frame a then-20-year-old Alexander Torres for murder in a suit filed in federal court here today. Torres ended up being wrongfully incarcerated for 20 years before he was exonerated.
The suit accuses Officers Jimmie Gates, Darren Diviak and David Castillo of withholding or destroying notes of their investigation that would have contradicted the testimony they gave at trial. They are further accused of coercing the witnesses to wrongfully finger Torres for the December 31, 2000 murder of Martin Guitron even though the crime occurred at night and no one was in a position to identify the perpetrator.
During his initial interview with police, the witness, Enrique Valdovinos, gave no description of the attacker. It was only under repeated questioning over many days that he eventually gave a more detailed description and under coercion from the officers, gave statements that blatantly contradicted what he’d told the officers earlier. Those contradictory accounts were suppressed from Torres’ attorney during his trial.
According to the suit, using false evidence,
“Defendants Gates and Castillo obtained a search warrant for night service at Torres’s home, and served that warrant in the early morning of January 18, 2001…. Sheriff’s officers used a ram to break down the front door and stormed the house, rounding up the sleeping residents (who included a 15-month-old toddler)…. At the station, Defendant Officers, including Defendants Gates and Castillo, interrogated Torres. They coerced him by asking him for his mother’s immigration status—which had no connection whatsoever to Guitron’s murder—and by communicating that Torres’s mother could be deported if Torres did not cooperate with Gates and Castillo.”
No physical evidence ever connected Torres to the crime and the officers suppressed evidence and notes that suggested alternative suspects.
Following a jury trial where the false evidence was testified to by the officers under oath, Torres was convicted of second-degree murder and of having personally and intentionally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury and death. He was sentenced to 40 years to life in prison. In October 2021, his conviction was vacated by the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, and in April 2022, he was found factually innocent of murder by the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County. In June 2022, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón apologized to Torres for his wrongful conviction.
Torres grew up in the Los Angeles area. Before he was wrongfully convicted, he enjoyed fishing and spending time with his close-knit family, which includes nine brothers and sisters. As a teenager, Torres babysat and spent time with his niece Savannah, who was his oldest brother’s daughter. They remained close and spoke often while Torres was imprisoned. Savannah passed away at the age of 26 in February 2021, just months before Torres was released. Today, Torres enjoys spending time in person with his mother and siblings. He aspires to go to culinary school and become a chef.
Loevy & Loevy is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms, and over the past decade has won more multi-million dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the country. A copy of the suit, Alexander Torres v. Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, County of Los Angeles, Jimmie Gates #111207, David Castillo #111663, Darren Diviak, Bahman Atabaki #408371, Deputy R. Barton 410462, Ryan DeYoung #410355, Alfredo R. Castro #013440, Larry Lincoln, Michael O’Shea,Steve Tillmann, Ralph Salazar, Deputy Gilbert, Deputy Guerrero, and Unidentified Employees of the County of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, Case No. 2:22-cv-07450, is available here.
Alex Torres with his sister, Sandra Torres.