Luis Vargas

County of Conviction:

Convicted of:

Sentence:

Arrest:

Release:

2016

case details

Luis Vargas was wrongly convicted of multiple sexual assaults based on eyewitness misidentification. He spent 16 years in prison before DNA evidence pointed to a 3rd party suspect.

In early 1998, three women were attacked and/or sexually assaulted in Los Angeles.  All the attacks were so similar, that the prosecution believed the same person committed all three.  Although Luis Vargas was at work during each of the attacks, he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to 55 years to life. Luis was adamant he was innocent and even pleaded to the court on the day he was sentenced.  He said, “…I will pray for God’s mercy on all of you…but as far as I’m concerned, the person who did these crimes might be raping or killing someone out there.”

Luis’s case had all the signs of a wrongful conviction, including witness misidentification. The entire case rested on the scared victims’ varying descriptions of their attacker. Despite the problems with their identification throughout the investigation and the trial, Luis’s defense attorney didn’t bring in an expert to educate the jury about the obvious problems with the identification procedures and the contamination of the witnesses’ memories. 

In his never-ending fight to prove his innocence, Luis wrote a letter to Raquel Barilla and included an article from the L.A. Times about the “Tear Drop Rapist.” The Tear Drop Rapist, who has yet to be found, is believed to be responsible for over 35 attacks that share striking similarities to the crimes for which Luis was convicted. 

In 2013, Raquel Barilla and the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office filed a joint motion for DNA testing.  The testing came back and pointed to the Teardrop Rapist.  Following the DNA results, Raquel and the LA District Attorney’s office worked together to exonerate Luis Vargas.  In 2016, Vargas walked free after spending 16 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

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