Man Declared Innocent After Decades In Prison

After spending over 38 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit, a Los Angeles judge has finally declared Maurice Hastings innocent.

Hastings, who is now 69 years old, was wrongfully convicted of the 1983 murder of Roberta Wydermyer, whose body was found with a gunshot wound to the head in the trunk of her vehicle in the city of Inglewood near Los Angeles.

He was charged with special-circumstance murder, but has maintained his innocence since the day of his arrest. The district attorney’s office sought the death penalty in the case, but the jury deadlocked. Hastings was ultimately convicted by a second jury, and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 1988.

Hastings was released from prison last year after DNA evidence previously untested in his case ended up matching with a suspect who died in prison in 2020 — Kenneth Packnett, who had been imprisoned for a similar crime.

On Wednesday, Judge William Ryan declared Hastings “factually innocent” of the murder.

The wrongfully convicted man had previously requested DNA testing on the evidence in 2000, but the district attorney’s office denied the request. Ultimately, Hastings was cleared after submitting a claim of innocence to the DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit in 2021, which found that the DNA was not his.

“It means a lot. I’m grateful for the judge’s ruling, and the apologies — everything has been wonderful today,” Hastings said following the hearing, according to the Los Angeles Innocence Project. “I’m ready to move on with my life. I’m a happy man today.”

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón spoke out about the news in a statement, saying that Hastings had “survived a nightmare.”

“He spent nearly four decades in prison exhausting every avenue to prove his innocence while being repeatedly denied,” the statement read. “But Mr. Hastings has remained steadfast and faithful that one day he would hear a judge proclaim his innocence.”

Gascón went on to note that the ruling will clear Hastings’ name, and allow him the opportunity to seek relief in connection with his wrongful imprisonment.