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World
27 Feb 2019

Man spent 39-years for wrongful imprisonment, to get Rs. 149cr

Man, who spent 39-years in jail, found innocent

In a much long-awaited relief, a man in the US, who was wrongly convicted 39 years ago for a double murder he didn't commit, will now receive $21 million or Rs. 149 crore for his wrongful incarceration.

Authorities in Simi Valley, California, confirmed the settlement for Craig Coley recently and said that 39 years is the "longest prison term overturned in California."

Here's more.

In context

Man, who spent 39-years in jail, found innocent
In 1978, Coley's girlfriend and her son were found murdered

Murder

In 1978, Coley's girlfriend and her son were found murdered

On November 11, 1978, Rhonda Wicht, 24, and her 4-year-old son, Donald, were found murdered.

Wicht was raped and strangled with a macrame-cord and Donald was smothered.

The killer made it look like a burglary.

At that time, Coley was in a relationship with Wicht but was about to break up.

He managed a restaurant and his father was a retired Los Angeles detective.

Police

Neighbor saw Coley's truck parked outside Wicht's house, informed police

Police were alerted by the neighbors, who said they heard some trouble around 5:30 am that morning.

One of the neighbors informed them that she saw Coley's truck parked outside Wicht's house.

However, Coley, then 31, told police that he was in the restaurant until 4:30 am after which he dropped a friend home at 4:45 am.

Thereafter, he went back to his home.

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A child's t-shirt, bloody towel were found in Coley's home

Evidence

A child's t-shirt, bloody towel were found in Coley's home

Coley's home was searched and police found a bloody towel and a child's T-shirt.

They believed that the towel was used in the murders and charged Coley with first-degree murder.

During the trial, a doctor told jurors that Coley had many injuries, one of them being an abrasion on the penis.

Coley had been denying committing the murders for the last four decades.

Re-investigation

In 1989, detective started re-investigating Coley's case believing his innocence

Further, even Coley's co-workers backed him that he was at the restaurant at the time of murder.

The first trial was declared a mistrial and in the second trial, Coley was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

In 1989, Simi Valley police detective, Michael Bender, looked at Coley's file and was convinced that he wasn't the murderer.

He started to re-investigate the case.

New investigation: Coley's DNA not found in child's T-shirt, bedsheet

Results

New investigation: Coley's DNA not found in child's T-shirt, bedsheet

The old investigation had loopholes, such as missing evidence by another detective and the absence of DNA testing during original trial.

In the renewed investigation, DNA testing was done, and Coley's DNA was neither found on the sheet on which Wicht's body was discovered nor on her son's T-shirt, which proved Coley's innocence.

The sheet had sperm and possible saliva of an unidentified man.

Pardon

In 2017, Coley was pardoned by the state governor

On November 20, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown eventually pardoned Coley and a week later he was declared innocent.

In February 2018, Coley was awarded $2 million (Rs. 14 crore) by the California Victims Compensation Board for his wrongful imprisonment, $140 or Rs. 9,968 for 13,991 days each.

Last week, he received a $21 million (Rs. 149 crore) settlement from Simi Valley.

'No amount can make up to what happened to Coley'

City Manager, Eric Levitt, said in a statement last week, "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."

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