A Los Angeles judge has ruled a man named Maurice Hastings innocent after he was locked in prison for over 38 years after being incorrectly convicted of murder in 1983.
Hastings became a free man last year after DNA evidence routed investigators to a new suspect who passed away in prison in 2020, reported Associated Press.
The judge declared Hastings as “factually innocent” on Wednesday.
“It means a lot. I’m grateful for the judge’s ruling, and the apologies — everything has been wonderful today,” Hastings stated after the hearing, according to the Los Angeles Innocence Project. “I’m ready to move on with my life. I’m a happy man today.”
“He spent nearly four decades in prison exhausting every avenue to prove his innocence while being repeatedly denied,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement pertaining to the case. “But Mr. Hastings has remained steadfast and faithful that one day he would hear a judge proclaim his innocence.”
Sky News posted a video of the moment Hastings was informed of his newfound innocence and consequential release.
This is the moment Maurice Hastings finds out he is being freed after 38 years in prison.
It comes after new DNA testing linked a different man to the murder of Roberta Wydermyer in California in 1983.
Full story: https://t.co/PvXYkKTvBR pic.twitter.com/GceLpW5lVL
— Sky News (@SkyNews) October 29, 2022
Hastings had proclaimed his innocence ever since he was first arrested for allegedly murdering Roberta Wydermyer, who was reportedly violated and killed with a firearm.
The innocent man was originally sentenced to life in prison without any chance of parole in 1988, CBS reports. The district attorney’s office initially pushed for the death penalty, but ultimately failed after facing a deadlocked jury. Hastings was later convicted by a second jury.
He attempted to receive DNA testing in 2000, only for the DA’s office to decline the request at the time. Over two decades later, Hastings claimed innocence once again to the DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit in 2021.
According to prosecutors, the DNA data examined in June was linked to a person convicted of armed kidnapping and forced copulation of a woman who was shoved into the trunk of a vehicle.
Hastings, who was 69 years of age when he left prison in October of last year, told reporters that he had prayed for the day of his release.
”I am not standing up here a bitter man, but I just want to enjoy my life now while I have it,” he said.