Los Angeles man wrongfully jailed for decades found not guilty

Los Angeles man wrongfully jailed for decades found not guilty

A man who spent more than 38 years behind bars for a murder he did not commit in 1983 was found not guilty by a Los Angeles judge on Wednesday.

Maurice Hastings he got out of jail last year after long-unverified DNA evidence pointed to a different suspect. In October, the judge overturned Hastings’ conviction at the request of prosecutors from the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and his attorneys from the Los Angeles Innocence Project.

Prosecutors and attorneys for Hastings returned to court to ask Judge William C. Ryan to go further and find him not guilty of the 40-year-old’s murder.

A man who served 38 years in prison for the kidnapping and murder of a woman in Inglewood in 1983 is now a free man, and authorities say newly analyzed DNA evidence has cleared him of the crime and has identified another person as the culprit of the murder.

The judge’s declaration on Wednesday of Hastings as “factually innocent” means the evidence conclusively shows Hastings did not commit the crime.

“It means a lot. I’m grateful for the judge’s decision and apology, everything was wonderful today,” Hastings said after the hearing, according to the Los Angeles Innocence Project. “I’m ready to move on with my life. Today, I am a happy man”.

District Attorney George Gascón said Hastings “survived a nightmare.”

“He spent nearly four decades in prison exhausting all avenues to prove his innocence while being repeatedly denied,” Gascón said in a statement. “But Mr. Hastings has been adamant and faithful that one day he will hear a judge proclaim his innocence.”

Gascón said the decision would clear Hastings’ name and pave the way for him to seek possible redress in connection with his wrongful conviction.

The victim in the case, Roberta Wydermyer, was sexually assaulted and killed with a single bullet to the head, authorities said. His body was found in the trunk of his vehicle in the town of Inglewood, near Los Angeles.

A Latino who spent more than two decades serving time in maximum security prisons for a murder he did not commit, today he is a free man once again. Raymond Mesa has the details of how he was exonerated thanks to his family who never doubted his innocence.

Hastings has been charged with murder under special circumstances and the district attorney’s office has sought the death penalty, but the jury is deadlocked. A second jury found him guilty and he was sentenced in 1988 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Hastings has maintained he has been innocent since his arrest.

At the time of the victim’s autopsy, the coroner conducted a sexual assault examination and semen was detected on a mouth swab, the district attorney’s office said in October.

Hastings requested DNA testing in 2000, but at the time the district attorney’s office denied the request. Hastings pleaded not guilty to the District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit in 2021, and DNA testing last June revealed the semen was not his.

The DNA profile was placed in a state database and matched to a person who was convicted of armed abduction and forced copulation of a female victim who was placed in the trunk of a vehicle. The suspect, Kenneth Packnett, died in prison in 2020, prosecutors said.

Hastings, who was 69 when he was released from prison last October, told reporters at the time that he prayed for the day of his release.

“I don’t stand here as a bitter man, but I just want to enjoy my life now while I have it,” Hastings said.

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