Solorio was arrested in 1998 for a fatal drive-by shooting in Whittier, CA and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. His conviction was based on faulty eyewitness identification practices and false testimony by law enforcement, who had zeroed in on Solorio as the lone suspect despite available evidence to the contrary.
The case against Solorio relied heavily on a method of obtaining eyewitness identifications that results in contaminating the witnesses’ memory by repeatedly showing the same suspect until law enforcement obtains an identification. In Solorio’s case, four eyewitnesses shown his photograph before it was in the news did not identify him, and some even pointed to a different suspect. But rather than pursue any other leads, law enforcement continued to present the witnesses with photos of Solorio until some of them identified him.
At trial, a police investigator testified falsely that Miguel’s alibi witness, his then-girlfriend Silvia, did not provide the investigator with critical information regarding the perpetrator vehicle and its driver during an investigative interview. The truth was that she had. The prosecutor, who knew or should have known the testimony was false, failed to correct it.
The police investigator’s false testimony undermined Silvia’s credibility at trial, and therefore diminished the power of her testimony that Miguel had been with her all night the night of the crime.
Solorio spent the next 22 years in state prison trying, with help from his now-wife Silvia, to find a lawyer to help prove his innocence. In 2020, he connected with experienced defense attorney Ellen Eggers, who worked on a re-investigation of the case with Megan Baca and Jessica Jacobs. Eggers then reached out to the Northern California Innocence Project and together the group gathered evidence from several people who identified the actual perpetrators, establishing Solorio’s innocence. The attorneys also discovered that the lead detective had lied on the stand.
The defense team also consulted with noted UC San Diego eyewitness and memory expert Dr. John Wixted. Dr. Wixted provided a powerful declaration to the court about new scientific consensus in his field, which revealed that the repeated showing of Solorio’s face to eyewitnesses caused their memories to be irreversibly contaminated. The fact that they did not identify him initially, moreover, actually pointed to his innocence.
After reviewing all of the evidence Solorio’s attorneys presented, and conducting their own independent investigation, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office agreed that Solorio is innocent. On November 9, 2023, The Los Angeles County Superior Court reversed Solorio’s conviction and the District Attorney dropped all charges. Solorio was freed from prison four days later. On December 13, 2023, the Los Angeles County Superior Court found Solorio factually innocent.