A DNA Test Leads To the Pardoning of Man Convicted 39-Years Ago

A man from California has finally received pardon 39 years after being convicted wrongly of killing his former girlfriend and her son. The pardon was issued after his innocence was proven by a DNA test. The 70-year-old Craig Richard Coley was released immediately from a Lancaster state prison on Wednesday. This was after a pardon was issued by Governor Jerry Brown to free the wrongly convicted man. The Governor said in the pardon note that for the last 38 years, Coley had been the model inmate. While in prison, Coley avoided violence and gangs and dedicated himself to studying religion. The wrongly convicted man has maintained that he is innocent throughout his term in Lancaster state prison.

Coley was arrested in 1978 on November 11. This was after an incident where Rhoda Wicht, 24, and her son, 4, were found brutally murdered in their apartment in Simi Valley. Rhoda was strangled using a Macrame rope while her 4-year-old son was suffocated to death. Crime detectives would zero down on Coley as the prime suspect mainly because he had broken up with Wicht shortly before the incident.

In 1979, Coley’s first trial happened which would result in a hung jury. The jurors ruled a 10-2 in favor of guilt after they were unable to resolve an impasse adequately. This was according to reports that were issued by the district attorney and chief police officer. The second trial for Coley would happen in 1980 where he was found guilty of the alleged crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

California’s Governor Brown said that he had directed the parole board of the state to carefully look into the conviction of Richard Coley over two years ago. The law enforcement officials also admitted that they had a belief that Coley was framed or wrongly convicted. The Police Chief of Simi Valley, David Livingstone and Gregory Totten, the Ventura County District attorney said that they would never stand by the evidence used in the conviction of Coley. The two state officials have in the past fully supported the clemency of the accused.

Totten and Livingstone said that last year, they began reviewing concerns that were raised by a retired detective on the merits of Coley’s conviction. Technicians used modern techniques that had not been developed at the time of his trial, to prove than Coley’s DNA was not found at the crime scene. However, they found the DNA of other people who have not been publicly identified.