A California man who was wrongfully convicted for killing an ex-girlfriend and her son four decades ago has reached a $21 million settlement with the city of Simi Valley, officials said.
Craig Coley, 71, was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 1978 murder of his former partner, Rhonda Wicht, and her 4-year-old son, Donald, at their apartment.
He had always maintained his innocence, and was pardoned in 2017 by California’s then-governor, Jerry Brown, based on exculpatory DNA evidence found by investigators.
“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,” Simi Valley City Manager Eric Levitt said on Saturday in a statement.
The 39 years Coley spent behind bars was the longest prison term ever overturned in California, the statement said.
Since his release, Coley has spoken to law enforcement officials about evidence collection, and has met with parents of prisoners who maintain their innocence, according to Mike Bender, a close friend and former police detective in Simi Valley, a community just outside Los Angeles.
Bender had pushed for Coley’s release for nearly three decades after he became troubled by aspects of the case.
“Craig’s message is always don’t give up,” Bender told Reuters by telephone on Sunday.
More than 350 U.S. inmates have been exonerated by DNA testing since 1989, according to New York-based the Innocence Project, which helps people who were wrongfully convicted. On average, convicts who were freed had served 14 years in prison when exonerated.
California authorities awarded Coley $1.95 million last year — $140 for each day he spent in prison. At the time, it was the largest payout for a wrongful conviction by the state’s Victim Compensation Board.
That money allowed Coley to buy a home. With the new settlement money, he will also be able visit places on his bucket list and continue to help the wrongfully convicted, Bender said.
“He’s looking forward to being able to live his life,” Bender said, “No one would want to trade places with him.”
Fatal drug overdoses drop in US for first time in decades
Fatal drug overdoses in the US declined by 5.1 percent in 2018, according to preliminary official data released Wednesday, the first drop in two decades.
The trend was driven by a steep decline in deaths linked to prescription painkillers.
"The latest provisional data on overdose deaths show that America's united efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, though he cautioned the epidemic would not be cured overnight.
The total number of estimated deaths dropped to 68,557 in 2018 against 72,224 the year before, according to the figures released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Judge blocks effort to conceal details in Trump campaign crimes case as Bill Barr’s DOJ mysteriously closes the probe
A federal judge confirmed on Wednesday that the Justice Department has ended its investigation into campaign finance crimes committed by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, indicating that no one else will face charges in the case. But Judge William Pauley also announced that, over the government’s objections, he will be making many of the underlying documents in the case public without requested redactions.
The case stemmed from Cohen’s efforts during the 2016 campaign to secure hush money payments for two women who said they had affairs with Donald Trump. Since investigators determined these payments were done in order to help secure Trump’s victory, the spending counted as campaign contributions that were never recorded and were, in fact, illegally concealed. The Trump Organization, Cohen has said, helped repay him for the costs of the hush money while disguising the payment falsely as a legal retainer.
Rand Paul just blocked the 9/11 victim fund because it isn’t paid for — but didn’t care when it was a $1.5 trillion tax cut
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked a call for unanimous consent on Wednesday to push forward with a funding extension for the victims of 9/11, claiming that the new spending should be paid for.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for the bill to be passed in the Senate by unanimous consent, but even a single lawmaker’s objection can block the move and slow down the process. The measure is still widely expected to pass, but Paul wants to use the opportunity to complain about the national debt.
“We need to address our massive debt in this country,” he said “We have a $22 trillion debt. We’re adding debt at about a trillion dollars a year. And therefore any new spending that we are approaching, any new program that’s going to have the longevity of 70-80 years, should be offset by cutting spending that’s less valuable. We need to at least have this debate.”