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"My journey has been one of unimaginable hardship" says wrongfully imprisoned man after serving 20 years

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CBS News Los Angeles Live

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said it's time to right the wrongs of the past as he announced the exoneration Wednesday of two men who both served over 20 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

Jofama Coleman and Abel Soto stood side-by-side during the afternoon news conference, along with their attorney Ellen Eggers. With smiles, tears, and apologies, Eggers at one point said, "My clients are heroes and I love them both so much."

Coleman and Soto were 20 and 15 years old, respectively, when they were arrested and charged for the 2003 murder of 16-year-old Jose Robles. 

"Jofama Coleman and Abel Soto were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for a murder they did not commit," Gascón said during the news conference.  

On May 10, 2003, around 9 p.m., Robles was walking down the street near his house when a van pulled up near him and a person fired a gun at him. Witnesses reported seeing a person then exit the van and shoot Robles multiple times. 

In 2007, Soto was sentenced to 72 years to life in prison for allegedly firing the deadly shots.

That same year Coleman was sentenced to 25 years to life after being convicted of driving the white van that was used in the drive-by shooting.

From the beginning, the two maintained their innocence.

Attorney Eggers submitted a claim of innocence based on newly discovered evidence in January 2023. The Habeas Unit picked up the investigation of the case in November.

In January, the court found Soto factually innocent of the crime. Coleman was found factually innocent on Tuesday.

"Jofama Coleman and Abel Soto are my heroes, never faltering in their quest for justice," Attorney Eggers said. "Jofama transformed his cell into a classroom to master the law itself. Their indomitable spirit, coupled with Jessica Jacobs' essential support, unraveled the truth that set them free."

Coleman spoke at Wednesday's news conference, saying he has endured unimaginable hardship.

"I found myself incarcerated for a crime I did not commit. The weight of that injustice was a burden I carried every day, but refused to let it define me," Coleman said. 

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