VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. - An Oxnard man’s attempted murder conviction has a chance at being reversed come Monday. His family says he was wrongly convicted nearly a decade ago.
“We can finally end with this nightmare and bring my baby home,” said Alma Ixta.
Alma and Ignacio Ixta hope their son, Ignacio Ixta Junior, will be home soon. The 32-year-old was sentenced to 35 years in prison for the attempted murder of Miguel Cortez in 2009. But that conviction could be overturned. The Ventura County District Attorney says new information raised questions about the credibility of the prosecution's key witness. Now the DA's office says Ixta is entitled to a conviction reversal, which is expected Monday.
“The most significant thing that will take place on Monday is a decision by the district attorney's office as to whether or not they will re-prosecute Ignacio,” said Philip Dunn, who is the Ixta’s attorney. “They have the option of course of dismissing the case in light of the new evidence.”
The DA's office says the decision to reverse charges was not based on evidence another person committed the crime-- and the office is actively re-evaluating the case to determine if the charges can still be proven. But Ixta's family maintains his innocence.
“We have the truth,” said Dunn. “And I have no doubt that the truth will set him free.”
In 2015, the Oxnard family got in touch with Natalie Cherot, a former investigative reporter from Santa Barbara. Their goal was to find evidence for a retrial.
“I agreed to read the police report,” said Cherot. “At the end of reading it, I was just devastated. It just seemed like their son didn’t get a fair trial, and I was just upset. I would just try to help them as much as I could.”
Cherot started working the case for free.
“One of the first interviews I did was I went back to the shooting scene and I talked to the in-laws of the Cortez’s and I showed them a picture of Ignacio Ixta Jr, and they were there and present during the shooting and his brother in-law and father in-law told me point blank the guy I was showing the picture of did not do the shooting,” said Cherot.
Dunn says new evidence will prove Ixta junior's innocence.
“What we uncovered was four search warrants that made it very clear that Miguel Cortez that is the alleged victim in this was a hard core gang member who had participated in at least four different drive by shootings,” said Dunn. “One of which occurred just 6 days before he was shot. So this shooting of Miguel Cortez was in retaliation for his participation.”
The DA's office says Ixta learned of evidence that could have impacted the case, and brought that to the DA's attention, prompting an investigation from the Conviction Integrity Unit.
“This evidence was withheld by the prosecution at the trial and now Erik Nasarenko who is the new District Attorney in Ventura County, he thought this was exculpatory evidence an he has agreed to reverse the conviction and at least at this stage grant Ignacio a new trial,” said Dunn.
Ixta was recently transferred from Pelican Bay State Prison to the Ventura County jail, and will be present at Monday's hearing.