One man's road to exoneration after nearly 40 years

Maurice Hastings has spent more than half his life in prison for a murder he didn't commit. Hastings, 69, spent more than 38 years in state prison for the 1983 murder of Roberta Wydermyer. 

On Friday, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón vacated Hastings' sentence, making him a free man. DNA evidence from the victim proved Hastings wasn't the one who kidnaped and murdered Wydermyer 39 years ago. Hastings first requested a DNA test back in 2000, 22 years ago. Something as simple as a DNA test took more than two decades and multiple advocacy groups to make it a reality. 

Back in 2000, Hasting made his request alone, but that request was denied by the LA County DA’s office. But Hastings maintained his innocence.

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Eventually, Hastings had a team working on his behalf, including lawyers from the California Innocence Project, the Post-Conviction Assistance Center and Loyola Marymount University's Project for the Innocent. In 2021, Hastings submitted a claim of innocence with the District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, and in June of this year, the DNA testing found that the semen on the oral swab taken back in the '80s was not from Hastings, the DA’s office said.  

The real suspect is dead. According to the DA's office, he died in 2020, serving prison time for a separate kidnapping and rape.

Hastings was tried twice in the ‘80s. The first jury was deadlocked, but a second jury convicted him, and Hastings was sentenced in 1988 to life without the possibility of parole. The jury did consider the death penalty in that case. Hastings’ advocates say that if he had gotten the death penalty before getting the chance to prove his innocence.

"It was really hard," Hastings said of his time in prison during a press conference Friday. "…Always have the fortitude to continue to move forward."