Man wrongly imprisoned for 40 years pardoned by California governor

A man who was incarcerated for almost 40 years for murders he did not commit has been pardoned by Callf. Gov. Jerry Brown.
By Harry Marcolis | Nov 28, 2017
California Gov. Jerry Brown has pardoned a man who was incarcerated for almost 40 years for murders he did not commit.

Craig R. Coley, age 70, was convicted in 1980 for the murders of Rhonda Wicht, 24, and her 4-year-old son, according to a report by The New York Times. Wicht was found beaten and strangled in her apartment in Simi, Calif. Her son, Daniel, had been smothered.

However, on Monday, the district attorney of Ventura County and the Simi Valley police chief said that new DNA tests would support a finding of innocence and announced their support of a clemency appeal by Coley.

On Wednesday, Gov. Brown signed a pardon. That day, Coley was released from state prison.

Gov. Brown had asked the Board of Parole Hearings to conduct an investigation into Coley's guilt when Coley petitioned him for clemency in 2015. When it turned out that several police officers believed in Coley's innocence, the police department opened an investigation in October 2016.

New DNA tests ruled out Coley's involvement in the murders.

"This case is tragic," wrote District Attorney Gregory D. Totten and police chief David Livingstone, in a statement. "An innocent woman and small child were murdered. Craig Coley has spent 39 years in custody for a crime he likely did not commit. The real murder or murderers have not been brought to justice."

Coley reportedly was a model inmate for the entire time he was in prison.

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