A man who spent more than 38 years in prison for a murder he failed to commit has been released after DNA evidence pointed to another suspect – now dead -.
Maurice Hastings, now 69, was found guilty of the 1983 murder of Roberta Wydermyer, who was killed by a gunshot to the head. Her body was found in the trunk of her car.
Mr. Hastings was initially tried for murder under special circumstances with the district attorney’s office requesting the death penalty but the jury at the time was unable to reach a verdict.
He was tried again and a second jury convicted him, sentenced him in 1988 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Before being released from prison in California, Mr. Hastings maintained his innocence for nearly four decades.
“What happened to Mr Hastings is a terrible injustice,” district attorney George Gascón said in a statement.
“The justice system is not perfect, and when we learn of new evidence that causes us to lose confidence in a verdict, it is our duty to act quickly.”
Mr Hastings looked very emotional as his conviction was overturned by the court.
The semen found in the victim’s mouth was not his
At the time of the victim’s autopsy, the coroner conducted an examination of the sexual assault and found semen in the victim’s mouth.
Hastings sought a DNA test in 2000, but the district attorney’s office denied the request.
He then filed a plea of innocence with the district attorney’s Integrity Unit last year and a DNA test last June showed the semen was not his.
Instead, it fits a person convicted of armed abduction of a female victim who was locked in the trunk of a car and forcibly engaged in oral intercourse with a woman.
That suspect, whose name was not released, was sentenced to 56 years in prison for those crimes and is now dead.
The district attorney’s office said it is working with police to further investigate the deceased’s involvement in the case.