Last October, I wrote about the story of 29-year-old Mario Rocha when the murder case against him was finally dismissed.
Just to remind you: As a sixteen-year-old Mario was arrested for a 1996 murder he always maintained he did not commit. He was tried as an adult, convicted on the say so of one witness and sentenced to two life sentences in an adult prison.
In most cases, that would have been the end of the story, but a remarkable and very determined Catholic nun named Sister Janet Harris, met Mario when he was in Eastlake Juvenile Hall awaiting trial and became convinced that he was innocent. After he was convicted, Sister Janet continued to be haunted by Mario’s case, and decided she had to help him.
She reviewed thousands of pages of trial transcript, and tracked down new witnesses, and eventually talked a high-powered LA legal firm into taking the case pro bono.
In 2005, the impossible happened: a California appeals court overturned his sentence on the grounds that he was inadequately represented. In the summer of 2006, Mario was freed after 10 and a half years in prison.
The prosecutors in the LA DA’s office said they would refile. Then in October of last year, they dropped the case altogether.
A terrific documentary was made about his case. For seven years, filmmakers followed Mario Rocha’s struggle’s to free himself with Sister Janet’s help, getting amazing access inside Calipatria State Prison.
The the result is Mario’s Story. The film did well in festival rounds but had no wide release. Now, however, it is showing on Showtime for most of this month. If you have access to that premium channel I strongly suggest you watch it. You won’t be sorry.