Wrongly convicted of robbery, murder and sexual assault in 1983, Maurice Hastings was found not guilty by a judge in California, in the United States.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan formally found Hastings innocent and dismissed his arrest and prosecution of his criminal record during a hearing on Wednesday, according to a statement to the press at California State University in Los Angeles.
“Means a lot. I’m grateful for the judge’s decision and the apology – everything was wonderful today,” Hastings said during a press conference following the decision. “I am ready to move on with my life. I am a happy man now.”
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Hastings, 69, was released from prison in October after a DNA test identified another suspect for the 1983 attack. He was serving a life sentence for the crime, despite the fact that witnesses supported his alibi during the murder and no physical evidence. the connection to the scene, according to a press release from the Los Angeles Innocence Project.
An oral DNA sample collected shortly after the attack was finally tested in June 2022, according to California State University, which hosts the Los Angeles Innocence Project. The conclusion of the DNA test ruled out Hastings and pointed to Kenneth Packnett, who died in 2020 while serving a prison sentence for kidnapping and rape.
During the hearing, Deputy District Attorney Martha Carrillo told Hastings a “long-overdue apology” on behalf of the Los Angeles District Attorney.
“I am very, very sorry for the injustice, the great injustice, that my office and the criminal justice system have done to you. There is a lot to be learned from this,” she said. “We are humbled by this lesson and will take it seriously. I know it’s not enough to say ‘I’m sorry’ for 38 years in prison, I realize that and I am humbled.”
Carrillo also apologized for not complying with Hastings’ earlier requests for DNA testing on the evidence.
/ Los Angeles Innocence Project
Hastings wrote to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in 2000, asking them to take a DNA test, which he said “would show conclusively that I was not the person involved with the death at the time of the crime.”
After the press conference, Hastings said “despair” set in as he faced the prospect of spending his life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
“It’s a lot of hopeless moments,” he said. “Many challenges. But you know, it’s all worth it now.”
“Now I feel vindicated,” he added.
With his record clean, Hastings wants to focus on “enjoying life,” he said. He is currently attending an entrepreneurship camp and doing activities with homeless communities.
“As time goes on, I’ll look to do other things that help other people,” he said.
This content was originally published in Man is declared innocent after spending 38 years in prison for a crime he did not commit in the US on the CNN Brasil website.