California Gov. Jerry Brown has pardoned a man in prison for 39 years for two murders he didn't commit.
Brown signed the pardon Wednesday, the same day Craig R. Coley, 70, walked out of the state prison in Lancaster.Coley has maintained he didn't kill Rhonda Wicht, 24, whom he previously had a relationship, and her 4-year-old son at her apartment in Simi Valley, Calif., in 1978. Wicht was found beaten and strangled, apparently, and her son Daniel, was smothered.Coley was son of a retired Los Angeles policeman who had dated her for nearly two years and worked as a night manager at a restaurant,Coley's first trial ended with a hung jury in 1979. He was found guilty in a retrial the next year and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. On appeal, his conviction was affirmed.
"This case is tragic," Totten and Livingstone wrote. "An innocent woman and small child were murdered. Craig Coley has spent 39 years in custody for a crime he likely did not commit."They added, "The real murder or murderers have not been brought to justice."Brown asked the Board of Parole Hearings to conduct an investigation in 2015 after Coley sought clemency. In the investigation, police officials said they doubted Coley's guilt and they believed he was framed or that evidence was mishandled.The case has reopened.Coley may apply to receive compensation of $140 for every day he spent behind bars, "which works out to about $1.9 million," Michael D. Schwartz, a special assistant district attorney, said in an email Thursday to The New York Times.