Man who wrongly spent 39 years in jail for murder wins $21,000,000 payout

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Man who wrongly spent 39 years in jail for murder wins $21,000,000 payout



A man wrongly jailed for nearly 40 years over the death of his ex-girlfriend and her son will receive a $21,000,000 payout.
Craig Coley, now 71, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 1978 murder of his former partner Rhonda Wicht and her son Donald, aged four, at their apartment.
He had always maintained his innocence and was pardoned in November 2017 by California’s then-governor Jerry Brown, who said DNA evidence proved Coley was not responsible.

Craig Coley has reached a $21 million settlement (Picture: AP)Today the city of Simi Valley, California, said it had now reached a $21,000,000 (£16,000,000) with Mr Coley.
‘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.
The city will pay about $4.9 million (£3,750,000) and the rest is expected to be paid by insurance and other sources.
The 39 years Coley spent behind bars was the longest prison term ever overturned in California.
He was exonerated after evidence found it was another man’s DNA on the bed sheets and not Mr Coley’s.
He also had an alibi for the time of the killings and investigators later disproved testimony from an eyewitness who placed him at the scene.

Craig Coley was convicted of murdering Rhonda Wicht and her 4-year-old son, Donald, in 1978 (Picture: Simi Valley Police Department)His parents died while he was in prison after mortgaging their home to pay his legal bills.
One of Mr Coley’s friends, Mike Bender, a police officer, had repeatedly pushed for his release after he became troubled with aspects of the case.
Ron Kaye, an attorney representing Mr Coley, said the settlement offers some closure and vindication for his client, though no amount of money can compensate him for the life he missed while imprisoned.
‘He now can live the rest of his life, which we hope will be really well into the future, with the security he deserves,’ Kaye said.
Soon after Coley was pardoned, a judge declared him factually innocent.
Simi Valley police have not arrested anyone else in the killings.

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