California man released after 40 years in prison after murder conviction for $ 21 million


SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (CA) – The city of Simi Valley, California, has reached an agreement with a man who has been wrongfully imprisoned for almost 40 years for the murder of his girlfriend and 4-year-old son.

Craig Coley was released in 2017 after being pardoned by the government of the day. Jerry Brown, who said the DNA evidence and the new investigation have proven Coley's innocence.

Simi Valley officials said Saturday that the deal would cut through lengthy, expensive and unnecessary court proceedings, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"Although no amount of money can compensate for what happened to Mr. Coley, settling this case is the right thing to do for Mr. Coley and our community," said City Manager , Eric Levitt, in a statement. The city will pay about $ 4.9 million and the rest should be paid for by insurance and other sources.

Last year, the state had approved a separate payment of nearly $ 2 million for Coley. He is now 71 years old.

Coley spent 39 years behind bars after being wrongly convicted of murdering Rhonda Wicht, 24, Simi Valley and her son, in 1978.

The City Police Chief and Ventura County Attorney asked Brown to forgive him, as forensic tests showed that Coley's DNA was not on the sheet of the victim, which contained the DNA of a stranger. Coley had an alibi for the time being of the murders and the investigators later rebutted the testimony of a witness who had placed her at the scene.

His parents died while he was in prison after mortgaging their house to pay his legal bills.

Ron Kaye, a lawyer representing Coley, said the settlement offers a closure and a justification to his client, although no amount of money can make up for it for life that he missed during his incarceration.

"He can now live the rest of his life, which we hope will be fine in the future, with the security he deserves," Kaye said.

Shortly after Coley was pardoned, a judge declared him innocent. Simi Valley police did not arrest anyone else during the killings.


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