WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- After being wrongfully accused of a 1978 murder and sent to jail without parole, Craig Coley from Simi Valley, California was pardoned in 2017 and was paid $21 million settlement.
- New evidence found based on DNA testing has proven Coley to be innocent of murdering his former girlfriend and her son four decades ago.
- Prior to the new settlement money, he was awarded $1.95M last year — the largest payout for a wrongful conviction by California’s Victim Compensation Board.
A California man was awarded a $21 million in settlement with the city of Simi Valley, after being found wrongfully convicted of killing his former partner and her 4-year-old son in their apartment four decades ago.
Craig Coley, now 71, was accused of the 1978 murder and was sentenced to prison without parole.
“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,” said Simi Valley City Manager Eric Levitt in a statement on Saturday.
The 39 years Coley spent in jail was the longest recorded prison term in the state that was overturned.
Last year, California authorities made the largest payout for a wrongful conviction by the state’s Victim Compensation Board, by awarding Coley $1.95 million–$140 for each day spent behind bars. Coley was able to buy a home with that amount.
Now, with the latest settlement money, he will continue helping wrongfully convicted people, and be able to travel to places on his bucket list.
Based on vindicatory DNA evidence uncovered by investigators, Coley, who has always maintained his innocence, was pardoned by California’s former governor Jerry Brown in 2017.
His close friend and former police detective in Simi Valley Mike Bender had rallied for Coley’s release for almost thirty years since he became suspicious of some aspects of the case.
Bender told Reuters on Sunday by telephone that since being released, Coley has met with the parents of prisoners who maintain their innocence, and has also spoken to law enforcement officials about collecting evidence.
“Craig’s message is always don’t give up,” Bender told Reuters. “He’s looking forward to being able to live his life. No one would want to trade places with him.”
According to the Innocence Project, a non-profit based in New York which aid the wrongfully convicted, since 1989, over 350 inmates have been acquitted by DNA testing. Absolved convicts had served an average of 14 years in prison.