After He Was Labeled a Child Rapist, He's Finally Exonerated and Filing a Lawsuit for the 25 Years Lost

Vicente Benavides was freed from death row in April of 2018

Back in 1991, Vicente Benevides was wrongly convicted of raping and killing a toddler, and after decades of anguish in prison, he's finally free, and is filing a lawsuit.

"I was there 25 years, on death row," Benevides said.

He spent those years in San Quentin, with visits from his parents, who are both now gone. He never saw his children grow up. He lived with a daily fear of attack from fellow prisoners.

"He was sent to death row in San Quentin as a child rapist. Do you understand what that means?" his attorney Ron Kaye said.

A quarter of a century ago, a Kern County Court convicted Benevides of raping and killing Consuelo Verdugo, a toddler he loved like his own daughter.

In March of last year, the California Supreme Court found that prosecutors withheld key evidence, coerced witnesses, and, ultimately convicted an innocent man.

It concluded that there was no evidence of sexual abuse before her death -- which was a centerpiece of the prosecution case, back in 1991.

"All the evidence shows that she likely died from being struck by a motor vehicle," Kaye said.

Benavides was freed from death row in April of 2018. He's now suing Kern County, the city of Delano, California, and four law enforcement officials.

His attorneys did not disclose what they're seeking, but emphasized that what he lost all those years behind bars was priceless.

"They framed this innocent man. They stole his life," Kaye said.

A spokesman for the Kern County District Attorney, whose office is named in Benevides's lawsuit, declined comment.

Benevides said cases like this should serve as a wake-up call to victims of crime, as well as police and prosecutors, and what's said and done in courts like this doesn't always lead to the truth.

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