HOUSTON, United States – A Black man who spent nearly four decades in prison for a murder he did not commit was released in the state of California on Friday after DNA tests showed he was not the killer.
Maurice Hastings, 69, had his murder conviction overturned by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office after he was wrongly convicted for the 1983 abduction and killing of Roberta Wydermyer, 30, in the city of Inglewood.
“I'm not pointing fingers. I'm not standing up here a bitter man,'' Hastings said at a news conference. “But I just want to enjoy my life while I have it. And I just want to move forward.''
Newly-tested DNA evidence exonerated Hastings of the crime and identified a different person as the murderer.
The district attorney’s office said the real killer died in 2020 while serving a sentence for a separate kidnapping and rape.
“What has happened to Mr. Hastings is a terrible injustice,” Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said in a statement. “The justice system is not perfect, and when we learn of new evidence which causes us to lose confidence in a conviction, it is our obligation to act swiftly.”
The district attorney’s office worked in conjunction with the Los Angeles Innocence Project to file a motion to vacate Hastings' conviction.
Gascon apologized to Hastings that the DNA evidence was not available at the time to prevent his conviction and prison sentence.
“The system failed you,'' he said. “The system failed the victims.''
Gascon credited Hastings for pushing his office "to investigate your case.''
“You are a free man today because of your perseverance,'' said Gascón.
Hastings thanked all those who believed in him and prayed for him while he was imprisoned, including his mother, who died in June before she could see him exonerated.
“I prayed for many years that this day would come,” he said. (Anadolu)