A Californian Man Freed after Being Wrongly Imprisoned for 39 Years


In November 1978, Craig R. Coley was arrested in connection with the murder of Rhonda Wicht a 24-year-old woman who had ended their relationship shortly before her death. Ms. Wicht was strangled to death in her apartment while her 4-year old son was smothered. After serving an imprisonment of 39 years, a new investigation proved that Mr. Coley was not guilty. The first trial of Mr. Coley happened in the year 1979. He was found guilty. A retrial that occurred the following year sent him to a life imprisonment without parole. Gregory D. Totten, the Ventura district attorney alongside police Chief David M. Livingstone, said that they intended to support a clemency appeal filed by Mr. Coley. New DNA test that was done over a year of investigation would serve to prove the innocence of Mr. Coley.

The new investigations proved that Mr. Coley spent 39 years behind bars for a crime that he did not commit. Governor Jerry Brown of California signed the pardon on Wednesday, and Craig R. Coley walked out of the Lancaster prison a free man. Chief Livingston alongside Mr. Totten said that the case was tragic considering that a mother and her baby were killed while Mr. Coley was a year shy from spending four decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, yet the real perpetrators of the crime are yet to be brought to justice.

In a statement, Mr. Brown said that Mr. Coley had no criminal record when he was arrested and that Coley spent his life in prison keeping off from gangs and pursuing religion. Gov. Brown requested an investigation to be conducted by The Board of Parole Hearings after Coley petitioned clemency in the year 2015. The investigation found out that Mr. Coley might have been framed. DNA samples that had been missing were found in a private laboratory. New tests showed that the DNA matched that of other people and not of Coley. Since he is now free, 70-year-old Coley has been given a public defender. He can apply for a $140 daily compensation for the days he spent in the prison, which amounts to $1.9 million. As the district attorney, Mr. Totten said that he would like to meet Mr. Coley one on one to apologize to him. He said that his office would do all that is in its power to uncover the truth of the case.