Martha Sierra accused David Diaz of attempting to kill her boyfriend, Remberto Preciado, in the Lincoln Heights area of L.A., in front of her. According to police, Preciado was asked what neighborhood he was from during a fight over gang rivalries, and subsequently shot in the leg.
At the hospital, Sierra, then 18, was asked for information about the suspect. Detectives showed her photos of registered gang members in Lincoln Heights. She pointed to a young man, skinny with a shaved head, bushy eyebrows, and the start of a moustache. It was David Diaz.
In court, the defense presented evidence that showed Diaz was at the cinema with his family at the time of the shooting. But the jury was swayed by Sierra’s identification of Diaz as the shooter.
Nineteen years later, Sierra admits that she chose Diaz at random due to police pressure. “They told me I couldn’t go home until I identified the criminal. I told them: ‘OK, it’s this guy,’ but I didn’t know who he was,” she told Univision News.
“David Diaz was not the shooter,” said Sierra, now 39. “I feel bad because he should not be there,” she added.
Sierra says the true culprit does not even look like Diaz, but she did not see him among the pictures police showed her. “Everything happened so quickly but I remember that he was tall, with light skin, and skinny.” According to Diaz and his lawyers, the true culprit died in a gunfight.
The victim of the shooting, Remberto Preciado, declared that the accused was not the man who shot him in the leg.
“He is innocent,” Preciado wrote in a letter sent to Univision from Salinas Valley state prison, where he is serving a sentence for an unrelated incident. “In the trial, I testified that David Diaz was not the shooter. He is a victim of injustice of the Los Angeles’ courts,” he wrote.
“Nineteen years of his life have been stolen from him,” he added.