California Pardons Wrongly Convicted Man Serving Life Sentence

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Craig Coley became a free man on Wednesday after spending almost 40 years and more than half of his life in prison.

Craig Richard Coley went to prison for killing his ex-girlfriend and her 4-year-old son nearly four decades ago. He walked out of that prison Wednesday, at the age of 70, after DNA evidence proved he had been wrongfully convicted.

According to NBC News,

Coley has maintained his innocence since he was arrested on the same day 24-year-old Rhonda Wicht and her 4-year-old son, Donald Wicht, were found dead in her Simi Valley apartment on Nov. 11, 1978.

Coley endured two trials for the crime, the second landing him a life sentence without parole.

Coley's first trial in 1979 resulted in a hung jury, with jurors unable to resolve an impasse that left them 10-2 in favor of guilt, according to a news release issued by the police chief and district attorney.

DNA tests unavailable at the time of his trial were unable to match Coley's genetic profile to a key piece of evidence used in his conviction. California Gov. Jerry Brown issued the pardon and ordered Coley's immediate release.

"The grace with which Mr. Coley has endured this lengthy and unjust incarceration is extraordinary," Brown wrote.