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Man facing death penalty saved by sitcom footage that proved his innocence
Featured Image Credit: 60 Minutes Australia via YouTube / Netflix

Man facing death penalty saved by sitcom footage that proved his innocence

The gobsmacking story has since become the subject of a Netflix documentary.

An innocent man accused of murder was saved from facing the death penalty after unused sitcom footage was unearthed, proving his innocence.

In May 2003, 16-year-old Martha Puebla was shot dead on her doorstep at her home in Los Angeles.

Weeks before, Puebla had testified against a man named Mario Catalan - a gang member - and shortly after her death, Mario's brother, Juan Catalan, was arrested and charged with Puebla's murder.

Juan Catalan was arrested and charged with the murder. (Netflix)
Juan Catalan was arrested and charged with the murder. (Netflix)

At the time, police believed Catalan was responsible for carrying out a hit on the teen, which had been arranged by her ex-boyfriend Jose Ledesma and Mario.

"Witnesses described the suspect who fled the scene as a medium build male Hispanic, 19-25 years of age, 5’8" to 5’10". He had very short hair and a mustache and appeared to be a gang member," according to an LAPD police report from the time.

Despite providing an alibi and insisting he'd been at a baseball game with his six-year-old daughter at the time of the murder, Juan's legal team couldn't find any actual proof he'd been at the game.

He was subsequently arrested and charged before he spent five months remanded in custody while awaiting his trial.

If convicted, Catalan could've potentially faced the death penalty, but new evidence was found which corroborated his alibi.

Somewhat incredibly, an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (season four’s 'The Car Pool Lane' where Larry David hires a prostitute who then gets his father high on pot) was filmed in the stadium that night.

And unaired footage filmed for the episode showed Catalan at the game, which, of course, corroborated his alibi.

The DA was forced to drop the murder charges and award him a settlement of $320,000.

The incredible case was covered in Netflix’s 2017 true-crime documentary The Long Shot.

Filmmaker Jacob LaMendola said it took five years to get the documentary made, but added: “I knew that it was worth taking the time to tell it correctly.”

During an interview with the Indiewire in 2017, LaMendola said it took him a ‘long time’ to earn Catalan’s trust to feature in the documentary.

Larry David in The Long Shot. (Netflix)
Larry David in The Long Shot. (Netflix)

And that was just half the battle - he then had to get Larry David on board.

He revealed: "The very first thing he said when he got on the phone was, ‘There’s no way that I would ever be a part of this’.

"I think I just went into shock… We had gone so far, we had every piece, and I just didn’t want it to end."

When LaMendola started to explain how much effort he had invested into getting the film off the ground, David asked: "So wait, you just want to interview me?” to which LaMendola said yes, and David replied: "'OK, I’ll do it'."

Topics: US News, Film and TV, Crime, True crime