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Man Serving Life Released 38 Years Later After DNA Proves Innocence

A Los Angeles, California, man serving a life sentence has been freed from prison after long-untested DNA evidence proved the 1983 murder for which he was convicted was the doing of another person.

Maurice Hastings, 69, spent more than 38 years behind bars before District Attorney George Gascón vacated his conviction during a court hearing on October 20.

“I prayed for many years that this day would come,” Hastings said at a news conference Friday. “I am not pointing fingers; I am not standing up here a bitter man, but I just want to enjoy my life now while I have it.”

The victim of the murder in question, Roberta Wydermyer, was sexually assaulted and killed by a gunshot to the head. Her body was discovered in the trunk of her car in Inglewood.

The coroner had conducted a sexual assault examination involving the swabbing of various body parts, including an oral swab that detected semen.

Hastings was charged with a special circumstance of murder and the district attorney’s office wanted the death penalty. The first jury in the case deadlocked, but the second jury convicted Hastings, and he was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole in 1988.

He has maintained his innocence ever since his arrest.

In 2000, Hastings requested DNA to prove his innocence. But the distinct attorney’s office denied his request.

And last year, Hastings submitted a claim of innocence to the district attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit. DNA testing in June determined that the semen from the oral swab belonged to someone else.

“What has happened to Mr. Hastings is a terrible injustice,” District Attorney Gascón 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 crime scene DNA profile was uploaded to a state database this month that matched a person who was convicted of an armed kidnapping, in which a female victim was placed in a vehicle’s trunk, as well as the kidnap, rape, and forcible oral copulation of a woman.

The suspect, who had been sentenced to 56 years in custody, died in prison in 2020. His identity has not been released.

The district attorney’s office said it is working with the Inglewood Police Department to further investigate the involvement of the deceased suspect.

12 Comments
  • Sarah says:

    So pitiful when this happens. Looks like the police department did not do a good job investigating this case. I feel so sorry for this man.
    Also, did his attorney do anything to get them to investigate again or did he recognize they did not do a detailed investigation?

  • Robert B says:

    This man could have been freed 22 years ago . . . Twenty Two Years!! But for a DA in 2000 that denied his request to have dna tested, he lost another entire generation of free life.

    My question is, who was DA in 2000 that denied this request, and why did he?

  • here’s hoping he sues the DA personally for this injustice as the DA should lose his qualified immunity to be prosecuted for denying the innocent man justice , sickening to see this racist DA get away w/ this , the system failed this man & he deserves a comfortable life after this , here is the POS who denied Mr Hastings justice in 2000 , here :
    Steve Cooley |
    2000 – 2012

    Steve Cooley joined the District Attorney’s Office in 1973 as a law clerk. He became a deputy district attorney later that year. He ran for election in 2000 and won in a landslide. He was re-elected in 2004 and in 2008 became the first District Attorney in more than 70 years to be re-elected to a third consecutive term.

    At the start of his first term, he led a massive reorganization of the office based on his experience there and his nearly six years as a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. As part of the reorganization, Cooley created the Public Integrity Division to take on public corruption and the Justice System Integrity Division to focus on criminal misconduct by lawyers, law enforcement officers and the judiciary.

    Cooley was a statewide leader and strong advocate for expanding and improving the use of DNA technology to solve crimes, take rapists and killers off the streets and exonerate the innocent. Under his direction, the office co-authored Proposition 69, which was approved by voters in 2004 and widely expanded the state’s criminal offender DNA database.

    He led a successful effort to extradite murderers – including the killer of a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy – and other violent criminals from Mexico for prosecution in the United States.

    Cooley made the growing threat posed by computer-related crimes a priority throughout his tenure and created the High Technology Crime Division to address these cases.

    To advance public safety, he created the Criminal Justice Institute to provide training opportunities for criminal justice professionals in the county. Cooley also initiated the Animal Cruelty Prosecution Program, the first of its kind in the nation, to ensure that cases of animal cruelty, including dogfighting, cockfighting and animal abuse and neglect, were prosecuted consistently and effectively.

    During his tenure, Cooley hired more than 400 new prosecutors, which he considered his most enduring contribution to the office.

    Cooley retired at the end of his third term.

  • nana says:

    USA sentences are far too long, because jail is a business. We get 2-5 years for rape, 10-15 yrs for murder.

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