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Board grants approval for lawsuit settlement


Two men wrongly convicted of murder

The Board of Supervisors has approved a $24 million payment to settle a civil rights lawsuit brought by two men who were wrongly imprisoned for more than 23 years for a murder they did not commit.

John Klene, 45, and Eduardo Dumbrique, 42, were exonerated three years ago by the District Attorney's Office after nearly a decade of investigation by a nonprofit group who worked on the case.

The Los Angeles men filed their federal civil rights lawsuit in 2022 against the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and District Attorney's Office arising from their arrest and conviction for the murder of Antonio Alarcon nearly 27 years ago.

The LASD had no immediate comment. The District Attorney's Office said any response regarding the settlement would come after the matter is decided at the board meeting.

At about 11 p.m. on June 28, 1997, gang member Alarcon, 25, was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting near a pay telephone at 11650 Prairie Ave. in Hawthorne.

A few days later, Santo “Payaso'' Alvarez was arrested in Torrance for possession of a weapon and a hypodermic needle. Alvarez, also a gang member, offered information on the murder of Alarcon in exchange for his release. Alvarez claimed he had seen Dumbrique, then 15, and Klene, then 18, together, and heard Klene announce his intention to kill someone from Alarcon's gang.

According to their lawsuit, Klene and Dumbrique were in another city the night of the murder, at the home of Klene's parents watching the heavyweight title fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Hollyfield, with a number of witnesses present.

LASD investigators, however, took the word of Alvarez, who said Klene and Dumbrique were involved in the shooting, according to the lawsuit. The investigators allegedly fabricated witness statements about Klene and Dumbrique being seen in a green vehicle used in the fatal attack.

On Dec. 4, 1998, a Los Angeles jury convicted Klene and Dumbrique of first-degree murder. Both were sentenced to life in prison without parole. Their subsequent appeals were denied.

In March 2012, Klene learned for the first time that another man had admitted he had murdered Alarcon. Klene reached out to Innocence Matters, a Torrance-based non-profit organization that investigates wrongful convictions. In October 2012, Klene filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

On February 19, 2021, the motion to vacate was granted, the charge was dismissed, and Klene was released. The prosecution also agreed to vacate Dumbrique's conviction, and his case was dismissed. Dumbrique was released.

In November 2022, Klene and Dumbrique filed the civil rights lawsuit in Los Angeles federal court alleging they were framed.