DENVER -- A man who has spent nearly 20 years behind bars after being convicted of his role in a murder case when he was a juvenile is set to be freed from prison.
A district court judge determined Thursday that lawyers for then-17-year-old Giselle Gutierrez-Ruiz were ineffective during his 1998 trial, the Denver Post reports. The judge said the inadequate defense team led to his first-degree murder conviction and life sentence without parole.
Gutierrez-Ruiz, of Mexico, pleaded guilty to lesser counts of second-degree murder and felony menacing and was resentenced to time served -- 19 years and 19 days.
The judge's decision came after investigators who helped arrest Gutierrez-Ruiz and the wife of the victim petitioned for his release.
"In 25 years of prosecuting murder cases, I have never had the widow come to me and say I want this man out of prison," District Attorney Dave Young told the court.
Gutierrez-Ruiz had been driving in 1997 when his passenger shot men in two different cars, killing Rumaldo Castillo-Hernandez, in Adams County.
Gutierrez-Ruiz was convicted of first-degree murder under the complicity theory. A person may be convicted under the complicity theory if he or she aids, abets, advises or encourages the other person in committing the offense.
When Gutierrez-Ruiz is released, he will be sent to a federal immigration detention center. He is scheduled to be deported to Mexico because he is a convicted felon.