Oregon man serves 900 days in jail, though he didn’t commit a crime

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A man waiting to testify in an Oregon murder case has been held in jail as a material witness for nearly 900 days, though he has committed no crime.

Legal experts tell The Oregonian it’s exceptionally rare to be held as long as Benito Vasquez-Hernandez.

The 59-year-old man is held at the Washington County Jail. His bail was set at $500,000.

Prosecutors say Vasquez-Hernandez’s testimony is essential to their case and he probably wouldn’t show up to court if released. His son is suspected of killing Maria Bolanos-Rivera of Hillsboro in 2012.

Vasquez-Hernandez’s lawyers say he should be released because he is poor, has no formal education and low mental competency, and is an immigrant who doesn’t understand the American justice system.

Legal experts told the Oregonian they don’t track such cases of witnesses jailed, but they could only find one other example of a man held so long. And the incident occurred more than 100 years ago in California.

“Why am I in jail,” Vasquez-Hernandez asked the judge in September. “It’s been two years. It’s been too long.”

Material witness detention laws exist in nearly every state, the Oregonian reported. Oregon’s statute is used most often when witnesses don’t want to testify for fear of retaliation, often gang related.

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