SAN FRANCISCO - On Wednesday Joaquin Ciria emerged from nearly 32 year behind bars to cheers, bear hugs and whoops by his family, attorneys and supporters.
"This is a great country, and a great country is made out of great people," Ciria,61, proclaimed shortly after being released from San Francisco County Jail.
He had been staying there for a couple of days after spending half of his life in state prison. Earlier this week, a San Francisco judge confirmed Ciria had been wrongfully convicted of murder.
"I really want to say thank you to. God, because God brought the right people to make this happen," he said.
Pedro Ciria was only several weeks old when his father was arrested.
"I don't feel hostile towards the justice system, because you know the justice system is something that tends to mess up every once in a while," Pedro Ciria said. "I'm joyful that the right people made the right decision."
Joaquin Ciria was convicted of murder in the 1990 killing of his friend, Felix Bastarrica, in part because the getaway driver said Ciria was the shooter.
San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said that witness lied on the stand after being pressured by police to identify Ciria. Boudin launched the Innocence Project in his office. Ciria was the first case that was reviewed.
"False eyewitness identification. False testimony and in many instances official misconduct. All three of those common factors were present in Mr. Ciria's case," Boudin said.
Linda Starr, executive director of the Northern California Innocence Project was also among those who greeted Ciria.
"This is what we do our work for," Starr said as she embraced Ciria. "These moments are amazing."
Starr said of Boudin's Innocence Commission, "It should be the norm. We shouldn't have to celebrate that. That should be something that is expected of all district attorneys' offices, to fairly investigate a case."
Lara Bazelon, University of San Francisco School of Law professor and chair of the Innocence Commission said, "You were taken away from your wife, and your baby, and that is because the system failed you catastrophically."
Bazelon added, "Your resilience and persistence finally won the day. And that you now at long last have a chance to take back your life."
So for now, Ciria is relishing his release, in a world with iPhones, Uber and self-driving cars. But his first order of business?
"I would like to eat some Cuban food," he said, drawing laughs.