Maurice Hastings, a Los Angeles man who spent 38 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, was legally declared innocent on March 1.
According to CBS, although Hastings was released from prison in 2022 after uncovering new DNA evidence, prosecutors pushed to have the innocent man formally cleared by the court.
Judge William C. Ryan presided over the process and declared Hastings “factually innocent” of the crime he was accused of 40 years ago, stating that evidence proved he was not the perpetrator. The LA County District Attorney’s Office and the LA Innocence Project fought for this resounding step despite Hastings’ conviction being overturned.
After the hearing, Hastings told the LA Innocence Project, “It means a lot. I’m grateful for the judge’s ruling and the apologies — everything has been wonderful today. I’m ready to move on with my life. I’m a happy man today.”
District.Attorney George Gascón publically recognized the “nightmare” journey that Hastings had persevered through while maintaining his innocence for 38 years while incarcerated. Gascón also expressed gratitude for the judge choosing to legally exonerate Hastings of the murder so that he would have more opportunities to continue in the future without restrictions as a free man. He said, “He spent nearly four decades in prison exhausting every avenue to prove his innocence while being repeatedly denied,”
“But Mr. Hastings has remained steadfast and faithful that one day he would hear a judge proclaim his innocence.”
The murder that Hastings was wrongfully imprisoned for was of a woman named Roberta Wydermyder, who was sexually assaulted, killed, and left in the trunk of her car just outside of Los Angeles back 40 years ago.
Hastings was charged and sentenced to life without parole for the crime. Authorities reported that her cause of death was a headshot wound, and an autopsy revealed semen DNA from the examination that wasn’t tested at the time. After Hastings filed an innocence claim in 2021, the DNA was tested and confirmed not to be his, beginning the road to exonerating the wrongfully convicted man.