A man who served more than 38 years in prison for not committing murder has been released after DNA evidence pointed to another (now deceased) suspect.
Maurice Hastings, 69, was found guilty of the 1983 murder of Roberta Wydermyer, who was shot in the head with a single shot. Her body was found in the trunk of her car.
Mr Hastings was initially tried for special circumstances murder, and the district attorney’s office asked for the death penalty, but a jury at the time was unable to reach a verdict.
He was tried again and found guilty of murder, robbery and sexual assault, and a jury sentenced him to life without parole in 1988.
Although there is no physical evidence linking Mr. Hastings to the original crime in Inglewood, Los Angeles, he was also convicted of two attempted murders of Ms. Wydermyer’s husband and his friend, NBC4 reported.
Mr. Hastings maintained his innocence for nearly four years before being released from a California prison.
“What happened to Mr. Hastings is a horrific injustice,” District Attorney George Gasco said in a statement.
“The justice system is not perfect and we have an obligation to act quickly when we learn of new evidence that causes us to lose confidence in a conviction.”
Mr Hastings looked emotional as his conviction was overturned by the court.
Semen found in victim’s mouth is not his
During the autopsy of the victim, the coroner conducted a sexual assault examination and found semen in the victim population.
Mr. Hastings sought DNA testing in 2000, but the district attorney’s office rejected the request.
Last year, he filed a statement of innocence with the district attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, and a DNA test last June found that the semen was not his.
Instead, it matches a man convicted of armed kidnapping of a female victim who had been placed in the trunk of a car, as well as abducting, raping and forcing a young woman into a sexual act.
The unnamed suspect was sentenced to 56 years in prison for the crimes and is now dead.
The district attorney’s office said it was cooperating with police to further investigate whether the deceased was involved in the case.
“I’ve been praying for years that this day will come,” the Los Angeles Innocence Project reported Mr Hastings said after his conviction was overturned.