The year 1983 changed Maurice Hastings' life forever. The then 31-year-old was arrested for a murder he did not commit. The now 69-year-old was only released this week. "What happened to Mr. Hastings is a horrific injustice," Los Angeles County District Attorney George Cascón apologized. The judicial system is not perfect and if you get new indications that a conviction is wrong, then "it is our obligation to act quickly".
But what happened? Hastings was charged with the murder of Roberta Wydermyer and two counts of attempted murder. Wydermyer, 30, was found dead in the trunk of her car in Inglewood in June 1983, shot in the head. The coroner suspected a sexual assault and had several DNA traces collected from the body - among other things, semen was found in the woman's mouth. Hastings was then charged with murder, and prosecutors wanted the death penalty against him. But after a first jury returned no verdict, another jury decided in 1988 to sentence Hastings to life imprisonment with no chance of parole.
Hastings expressed his gratitude at a press conference on Friday. "I don't want to point my finger at anyone because I'm not standing here as a bitter man," said the 69-year-old. He wants to enjoy his life in the future and not look back. The 69-year-old is also entitled to compensation. Torts law in the United States provides for a minimum of $50,000 in compensation per year of imprisonment for wrongful convictions. However, Hastings' family didn't want to hear about it, instead the family looked forward to the first dinner together in 38 years.
Sources: Los Angeles County Attorney's Office, NBC Los Angeles, dpa