LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man who spent more than 38 years behind bars for a 1983 murder and two attempted murders has been released from a California prison after long-untested DNA evidence pointed to a different suspect, the Los Angeles County district attorney said Friday.
The conviction of Maurice Hastings, 69, and a life sentence were vacated during an Oct. 20 court hearing at the request of prosecutors and his lawyers from the Los Angeles Innocence Project at California State University, Los Angeles.
“What has happened to Mr. Hastings is a terrible injustice,” District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement. “The justice system is not perfect, and when we learn of new evidence which causes us to lose confidence in a conviction, it is our obligation to act swiftly.”
The victim in the case, Roberta Wydermyer, was killed by a single gunshot to the head. Her body was found in the trunk of her vehicle.
Hastings was charged with special-circumstance murder and the district attorney’s office sought the death penalty but the jury deadlocked. A second jury convicted him and he was sentenced in 1988 to life in prison without possibility of parole.
Hastings has maintained he was innocent since the time of his arrest.
At the time of the victim’s autopsy, the coroner conducted a sexual assault examination and semen was detected in an oral swab, the statement said.
Hastings sought DNA testing in 2000 but the district attorney’s office denied the request. Hastings submitted a claim of innocence to the district attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit last year and DNA testing last June found that the semen was not his.
The DNA profile was put into a state database this month and was matched to a person who was convicted of an armed kidnapping in which a female victim was placed in a vehicle’s trunk as well as the forced oral copulation of 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 the police to further investigate the involvement of the deceased person in the case.
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