Simi Valley, California officials have reached a $21-million settlement with a man who was imprisoned for almost 40 years for a murder he didn’t commit.
Craig Coley, who is now 71, was released after he was pardoned by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who said re-investigation and DNA evidence proved his innocence.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Simi Valley officials said that the agreement would mitigate costly and unnecessary legal proceedings.
In a statement, City Manager Eric Levitt said: “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.”
The city will pay $4.9 million while the rest is expected to be paid by insurance and other sources.
The state approved a separate $2-million payment for Coley.
He spent 39 years in prison after he was wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend, Rhonda Wicht of Simi Valley, and her 4-year-old son in 1978.
Ventura Country’s district attorney and the city’s police chief asked Brown to pardon Coley as forensic tests showed his DNA was not on the victim’s bedsheet, which contained DNA from an unidentified man.
“A key piece of evidence used to convict (the) defendant was found to not contain his DNA, but to instead contain the DNA of other individuals,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.
The sheet on which the woman’s body was discovered didn’t contain Coley’s DNA, but it has sperm and saliva from an unknown man.
The settlement brings justice to Coley and his family, but the killer or killers escaped arrest. Police were hoping the Golden State Killer might help them solve the case but he was also cleared by DNA, according to the Ventura County Star.
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