Mar 2, 2023 2:00 AM CST
Months after his release from prison, Maurice Hastings has been officially declared innocent by a judge. The Los Angeles man was wrongfully convicted of a 1983 murder, but was exonerated decades later by DNA evidence. The judge vacated Hastings' conviction in October when he was freed, but prosecutors and Hastings' attorneys asked him to go one step further and declare Hastings "factually innocent," meaning the evidence conclusively proves he did not commit the crime, the AP reports. “It means a lot. I’m grateful for the judge’s ruling, and the apologies—everything has been wonderful today,” Hastings said. “I’m ready to move on with my life. I’m a happy man today.”
Oct 31, 2022 2:31 AM CDT
Maurice Hastings spent 38 years behind bars after he was convicted in the 1983 kidnapping, sexual assault, and murder of a California woman. But this month, the 69-year-old was released from prison after DNA testing confirmed the real killer of 30-year-old Roberta Wydermyer was another man, who died in prison in 2020 while serving time for a different kidnapping and rape. Hastings' conviction and life sentence were vacated Oct. 20, NPR reports. The district attorney's office filed the motion to vacate in partnership with Hastings' lawyers at the Los Angeles Innocence Project at Cal State University LA, NBC Los Angeles reports.
"I prayed for many years that this day would come," Hastings said at a press 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." Hastings insisted he was innocent from the beginning, and tried to get DNA testing carried out in 2000 only to have the DA's office deny the request, the Guardian reports. "The system failed you,'' District Attorney George Gascón said to Hastings. “The system failed the victims. ... You are a free man today because of your perseverance." (Read more wrongful conviction stories.)