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Kern DA won't retry overturned murder case

Vicente Figueroa Benavides is seen in a photo provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Vicente Figueroa Benavides is seen in a photo provided by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) -- Kern County District Attorney Lisa Green announced Tuesday that she won't retry a man who had his murder conviction overturned by the California Supreme Court.

The high court in March overturned Vicente Figueroa Benavides' conviction, saying it had been based on false evidence.

Benavides has been in prison for more than two decades and was on death row.

In 1993, a Kern County jury found him guilty of sexually assaulting and killing 21-month-old Consuelo Verdugo.

The Supreme Court noted multiple medical experts who testified at the trial had recanted their testimony.

Green said there's no way they could again prosecute a first-degree murder case, based on the Supreme Court opinion and the remaining evidence.

She also concluded that trying to convict Benavides on the lesser charge of second-degree murder would be "extremely difficult, if not impossible." She also said that based on sentencing guidelines for second-degree murder, even if Benavides were somehow convicted, he would immediately be entitled to a parole hearing and likely released.

The DA said Benavides will be released once he's returned to Kern County and his charges are dismissed in court.

While Benavides will be a free man, Green expressed her take on his actions related to the little girl.

“He was the only adult that was with her in the time frame. It’s a very narrow time frame, so, no, it doesn’t mean he’s innocent of the physical child abuse,” Green said. "My decision not to retry the case is not the same as a finding of factual innocence, i'm not stating in anyway that hes factually innocent of the death of the child. I do believe he is responsible for the death of Consuelo, but as I said what I believe is not the same as convincing 12 people in our community beyond a reasonable doubt."

Benavides has no previous criminal record.

He is currently at San Quinton State Prison.

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All current murder charges against him will be dismissed, and he will no longer be a convicted felon.

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