LOS ANGELES, Nov. 22 (Xinhua) -- California Governor Jerry Brown Wednesday released an order to pardon 70-year-old Craig Richard Coley who was wrongfully convicted of homicide in 1980 and has since stayed behind bars.
Coley was arrested in connection with deaths of Rhonda Wicht and her four-year-old son Donald in 1978 in Simi Valley, 70 km west of Los Angeles. Two years later, he was convinced of the crimes that he did not commit and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Coley requested a new investigation through the Board of Parole in 2015. Eventually, a former police detective, captain and officer believed that the original detective mishandled the investigation or framed Coley.
In his pardon on the eve of Thanksgiving, Brown said Coley had no criminal history before being convicted of the murders and had been a "model inmate for nearly four decades" by avoiding gangs and violence.
"The grace with which Mr. Coley has endured this lengthy and unjust incarceration is extraordinary," the pardon reads.
The governor ordered the California Department of Corrections to immediately release Coley from prison and that those who actually committed the crimes be brought to justice.
Two days before the pardon, the Simi Valley Police Department and Ventura County District Attorney's Office announced Monday that based on DNA testing, Coley was indeed wrongfully convicted and is innocent.
"It is an absolutely shocking and tragic reminder that the best justice system man ever created is not perfect," Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten said at a press conference.
Totten was quoted by local Ventura Star newspaper as saying that as district attorney he looked forward to the day when he can shake Coley's hand and apologize to him for the injustice he suffered for almost 40 years.