- A California city has agreed to pay a $US21 million settlement to Craig Coley after he was wrongly imprisoned for 39 years.
- Coley, 71, was first released and pardoned in 2017, when DNA evidence was found to exonerate him from killing a mother and son.
- Coley was represented by a novice defender before he was sentenced to life without parole.
A California city has agreed to a $US21 million settlement to 71-year-old Craig Coley after he was wrongly imprisoned for 39 years.
Coley was imprisoned for the 1978 murders of 24-year-old Rhonda Wicht and her 4-year-old son, Donald, before DNA evidence led to his release and pardon in 2017.
Simi Valley City Manager Eric Levitt said in a statement that the city would contribute around $US4.9 million of the settlement, in addition to money from various sources including insurance payouts.
“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,” Levitt said in a statement.
Coley was reportedly already paid $US2 million by the state last year, calculated as $US140 for each of the 13,991 days he was held “illegally behind bars, away from society, employment, and [his] loved ones.”
Former Gov. Jerry Brown praised his unrelenting faith through his incarceration when pardoning Coley, reportedly calling him “extraordinary.”
Coley’s case was troubled from the start, CBS Los Angeles reported.Coley was represented by a novice defender before he was sentenced to life without parole. After his sentence, former Simi Valley detective Michael Bender reportedly took interest in the case and has been fighting for his justice since 1989.
The November 2017 report describes how Coley never swayed from claiming innocence in the case, and said he only felt “OK” about a hypothetical $US10 million payout for his imprisonment.
“I always had hope,” Coley told CBS after his pardon. “Sometimes it was stronger than others.”
Recent years have seen a sharp upturn in the overturning of wrongful convictions. According to statistics from the Innocence Project, more than 360 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989.
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