Thursday, 18 April, 2019

Man who spent 38 years in jail after wrongful convictions gets $21m

Craig Coley Craig Coley awarded compensation after spending 39 years in jail for a murder he did not commit Credit Rich Pedroncelli AP
Leonard Rios | 27 February, 2019, 04:27

A California man will receive a $21 million settlement for spending almost 40 years in prison after he was wrongly convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend and her four-year-old son.

The city of Simi Valley in California recently reached a $21-million (N7.6 billion) settlement with a man who spent more than 38 years wrongfully arrested and jailed for the brutal 1978 murders of a woman and her 4-year-old son.

"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", City Manager Eric Levitt said in a statement.

Craig Coley was released in 2017 after he was pardoned by then-governor Jerry Brown, who said DNA evidence and re-investigation proved his innocence.

According to CNN, Simi Valley will pay around $4.9m (£3.7m) to Coley, while the rest of the money will come from insurance and "other sources". A retired Simi Valley detective, Mike Bender, pushed the law enforcement agencies into re-examining the case.

However, the considerable doubts as to the judgment and the evidence remained - until the police officer Michael Bender managed to find convincing evidence that Coley is actually innocent. (Sim Valley Police Dept).

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Police initially suspected Mr Coley after a neighbour said she saw him and his truck at the apartment after hearing a commotion. During Coley's claim for compensation and other court filings, his lawyers spoke extensively about the inconsistencies in the evidence against Coley. Police searched Coley's home and found a child's T-shirt and a bloody towel, which they believed had been used in the murders, the synopsis said.

But it turns out Coley never committed those crime.

The trial judge had ordered evidence destroyed after Coley exhausted his appeals, but investigators retrieved records from Coley's relatives and located biological samples at a private lab.

"There was nobody else there to fight for the guy, so I just continued the fight", Bender told CNN previous year.

By the end of the new investigation, it became clear that Coley was innocent. When Brown officially exonerated Coley, he flatly stated, "I grant this pardon because Mr. Coley did not commit these crimes".

Simi Valley officials said on Saturday that the agreement would prevent long, costly and unnecessary legal proceedings, the Los Angeles Times reported.

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