US man gets $21 million pay-out for almost 40 years of wrongful incarceration

A California man has spent almost four decades in prison for the murder of a woman and her four-year-old son. 

On Saturday, a federal lawsuit was settled in his favour, granting Craig Coley $21 million in compensation.

The now 71-year-old was imprisoned in 1980 for the double homicide but protested his innocence continuously, reports CNN.

In 2017, new evidence surfaced, namely "biological samples" which the trial court had ordered destroyed after Mr Coley's conviction.

The Simi Valley Police Department reopened the case, with support from Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten.

"A key piece of evidence used to convict (the) defendant was found to not contain his DNA, but to instead contain the DNA of other individuals," said a statement from the district attorney's office.

The case was reopened and the following investigation led to Mr Coley's name being cleared. 

In 2017 Mr Coley was awarded close to $2 million in compensation - $140 for each of the 13,991 days Mr Coley was imprisoned.

Now, he's set to receive millions more.

"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," City Manager Eric Levitt said in a statement.

"The tireless advocacy by those who believed he was innocent and the Simi Valley Police Department's initiative to reopen the case lead to the discovery of DNA evidence, which ultimately lead to the determination that Mr Coley was factually innocent."

Mr Coley's 39-year prison sentence is the longest one overturned in California. CNN reports the now free man spent his first Thanksgiving with his family following his 2017 pardon.




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