A court in Los Angeles on Wednesday found a man innocent after over 38 years in prison for a murder he did not commit in 1983.
Maurice Hastings was freed from prison this year after decades-old DNA evidence pointed to another defendant. Hastings’ attorneys from the Los Angeles Innocence Project and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office asked the judge to overturn his conviction in October.
Hastings’ attorneys and the prosecution made a second appearance in court to request that Judge William C. Ryan go one step further and clear him of the murder that occurred forty years earlier.
Hastings was declared “factually innocent” by the judge on Wednesday, which indicates that the evidence indisputably shows that Hastings did not commit the crime.
That is significant. According to the Los Angeles Innocence Project, Hastings expressed gratitude for the judge’s decision and his apologies following the session. “I’m prepared to continue living my life. I’m feeling well today.
George Gascón, the district attorney, claimed that Hastings “survived a nightmare.”
He “spent nearly four decades in prison attempting every possible means to prove his innocence while being continually denied,” Gascón said. But Mr. Hastings has persisted in believing he will one day hear a judge declare his innocence.
According to Gascón, the decision will clear Hastings’ name and potentially open the door for him to seek relief from his false conviction.
According to investigators, Roberta Wydermyer, the victim in this instance, was sexually molested before being fatally shot. Inglewood, California, which is close to Los Angeles, is where her body was discovered in the trunk of her car.
The district attorney’s office sought the death penalty when Hastings was accused of exceptional circumstances murder, but the jury was deadlocked. He was found guilty by a second jury, and in 1988, he was given a life sentence without the possibility of release.
Since his arrest, Hastings has said he is innocent.
The coroner examined the victim for sexual assault at the autopsy, and semen was found in an oral swab, the district attorney’s office reported in October.
Hastings requested DNA testing in 2000, but the DA’s office rejected the request. DNA testing revealed that Hastings’ semen was not his in June of last year after he presented a claim of innocence to the district attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit in 2021.
The DNA sample was entered into a state database and matched to a person convicted of kidnapping a woman with a gun and forcing her into a car trunk. Prosecutors said that the suspect, Kenneth Packnett, passed away in prison in 2020.
At the time of his release from prison last October, Hastings, who was 69 years old, told reporters that he had longed for the day to come.
Hastings declared, “I am not standing up here a bitter guy, but I want to enjoy my life today while I have it.