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This Innocent Man Was Put On Death Row, But A TV Show Proved He Was Innocent

It's not every day that a comedy show is used as evidence in a murder trial, but Juan Catalan's case was anything but ordinary.

Juan Catalan in 2004.CBS News

Catalan attended a baseball came at Dodger Stadium in L.A. on the night of May 12, 2003. The same time he and his daughter were watching the game, a 16-year-old police witness was murdered 20 miles from the stadium.

Witnesses at the scene described a drive-by shooter who didn't look anything like Catalan, but later one witness picked his photo out of a police I.D. book. Despite his ticket stubs and his daughter's testimony that he was innocent, police charged him with the crime.

Security camera footage shows Catalan and his daughter at the game.LA Dodger Report

Catalan was so desperate to prove he wasn't guilty that he offered to take a lie detector test, but police refused to let him. Catalan was eventually found guilty and given the death sentence.

Catalan's lawyer, Todd Melnik, asked Fox and the Dodgers for their video footage of the crowds the night of the murder, but Catalan's seat was too small to make out. Then, the wrongly-accused man remembered something that saved his life.

Ever heard of Curb Your Enthusiasm?

Larry David's HBO comedy show Curb Your Enthusiasm, about his funny misadventures in Hollywood, was taping part of an episode at Dodger Stadium the night of the murder.

Larry David and Bob Einstein in the episode "Car Pool Lane."HBO

Catalan realized that Curb had been taping right in front of him, and asked Melnik to see if he was caught on camera. The lawyer asked HBO for their footage and spotted Catalan right away.

"I got to one of the scenes, and there is my client sitting in a corner of the frame eating a hot dog with his daughter," Melnik told CBS News. "I nearly jumped out of my chair and said, 'There he is!"

Melnik and Catalan pose with security footage of Catalan at the game.Caveman Circus

Melnik was released from jail and won $320,000 in a lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles for being unfairly locked up. His brother later became a suspect in Puebla's murder, so the case might have been due to mistaken identity all along.

“To hear the words from the judge’s mouth," Catalan remembers, "I just broke down in tears. It was the happiest moment in my life.” As for Larry David, when he learned about the case he had one of his signature quips ready.

Melnik and Catallan pose with Larry David.Remezcla

“I’m quitting the show to devote the rest of my life to freeing those unjustly incarcerated,” he joked.

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