My name is David Ayala. I was arrested in October 1981 for a fatal shooting at Piotrowski Park on August 16th, 1981. Two innocent citizens, who were not part of any gang, were killed and a former gang member, who was the apparent target of the shooting, was shot but was the sole survivor of the shooting.
The incident sparked a great public outcry by the residents in the predominately Mexican-American community, who were tired of the senseless gang violence. Public demonstrations demanding the arrest of those responsible for the murders put tremendous pressure on the police as well as the politicians running in the Chicago Mayoral election that year.
Boys of 15, 16, and 17 were detained without the due process of having their parents present and/or legal representation to protect their lawful civil rights. It was through this wide and general sweep and unlawful abusive interrogations, coercion and torture of the Latino youth of that area that ultimately led to the apprehension and arrest of 17-year-old Wally "Gator" Cruz, who without the benefit of his parents or a lawyer to safeguard his rights, confessed to a fabricated story of events that implicated me and my cousin James Soto, as well as Ruben Palomo as the perpetrators of this crime. "Gator" immediately secured a Witness Agreement deal with the Chicago State's Attorney for himself. And despite clear evidence of our innocence, including sworn affidavits from those implicated as "involved" attesting to this -- some made by the actual intended targets of this shooting as individuals formerly members of a gang -- and the fact that I was not at the scene nor did I know anything about the shooting until I saw it on the TV news later that night, a jury found me and James Soto guilty of the charges based solely on the false testimony of Wally "Gator" Cruz. James Soto and I were sentenced to natural life sentences with no possibility of parole ever. Ruben Palomo had a separate trial and was found both innocent and guilty of these charges and has long since been released.
A lack of knowledge on my part of the intricate legal process needed to appeal this wrongful conviction, coupled with the lack of financial resources and no support system, led to years passing without any legal action taken or presented to the courts, thereby leading to almost 4 decades of wrongful imprisonment for both myself and James Soto. This was the situation when I met (and later married) my wife Gayle in April 2008. Gayle has been the sole driving force and has made it her life's work to undertake the arduous process of overturning this injustice and gaining my rightful freedom. At great personal and financial sacrifice, she has, in the last nine years of our marriage, hired attorneys (through ongoing payment agreements), along with a private investigator who secured sworn affidavits from crucial witnesses who were never previously interviewed or called to testify by my former trial attorney in 1982. Gayle has exhausted her life savings on legal and investigative fees for this case. And while there is clear evidence of my innocence, that alone is not enough to achieve one's freedom in a judicial system with vast resources to oppress those without means.
Innocent citizens are wrongfully convicted through false testimony, false confessions, misidentifications by eye witnesses, illegal acts perpetrated by corrupt police officers and prosecutors and a lack of a citizen's proper legal representation. This occurs on a regular basis throughout the country but disproportionately so in Chicago. Professional, experienced legal representation is essential to appeal this case, the cost of which is now beyond our means.
Attorney Jennifer Bonjean has agreed to come on board and is ready, willing and able to represent me with my appeal. Her fee is $20,000, which leaves me with a balance due for her legal services of $10,000. (My generous donations to date are $10,000. Thank you!) Therefore, l am humbling requesting donations to try and raise these funds as soon as possible. We have already received one generous donation of $5,000 from an Illinois citizen who firmly believes in and supports my plight. Being imprisoned for 39 long years and counting, for a crime I am completely innocent of, cries out for justice. Any donations received, large or small, will go directly to the attorney's fee and will help rectify this travesty of justice. Donations can be made on this page through the options listed below.
If you have any questions about my case or the funds needed to continue to fight this case, you can contact us here.
I appreciate you taking the time to consider helping me in this important way so that I can be released back to the life that was wrongfully taken from me 39 years ago at age 18. Wrongful arrests and convictions are an all too frequent occurrence in this country and particularly in Chicago. Please help rectify this injustice. Thank you and God Bless You.
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