News ID: 239434
Published: 0633 GMT February 25, 2019

California man who spent 39 years in prison gets $21 million

California man who spent 39 years in prison gets $21 million

A man in the US state of California who spent nearly 40 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit has reached a $21 million settlement with the city of Simi Valley.

Craig Coley, 71, was wrongfully convicted in 1979 and sentenced to life in prison for the 1978 murder of his former fiance, Rhonda Wicht, and her 4-year-old son, Donald, at their apartment.

Coley, who had always maintained his innocence, was pardoned in 2017 by then California Governor Jerry Brown, based on DNA evidence found by investigators, Presstv Reported.

“While no amount of money can make up for what happened to Mr. Coley, settling this case is the right thing to do for Mr. Coley and our community,” Simi Valley City Manager Eric Levitt said on Saturday in a statement.

The 39 years Coley spent behind bars was the longest prison term ever overturned in California, the statement said.

Mike Bender, a close friend and former police detective in Simi Valley, had pushed for Coley’s release for nearly three decades after he became troubled by aspects of the case.

“Craig’s message is always don’t give up,” Bender told Reuters by telephone on Sunday.

“He’s looking forward to being able to live his life,” Bender said, “No one would want to trade places with him.”

Since his release, Coley has spoken to law enforcement officials about evidence collection, and has met with parents of prisoners who maintain their innocence.

More than 350 US inmates have been exonerated by DNA testing since 1989, according to New York-based the Innocence Project, which helps people who were wrongfully convicted.

On average, convicts who were freed had served 14 years in prison when exonerated.

The Unites States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with about 2.3 million individuals behind bars.



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