Maurice Hastings, a man wrongly convicted of a 1983 robbery-murder and sexual assault, has been found not guilty by a California judge.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William C. Ryan formally declared Hastings factually innocent and expunged the arrest and prosecution from his criminal record during a hearing Wednesday, according to a news release from the State University of California in Los Angeles.
“It means a lot. I’m grateful for the judge’s decision and the apologies — everything has been great today,” Hastings said during a press conference after the verdict.
Hastings, 69, was released from prison in October after DNA from the 1983 attack identified another suspect. He had served a life sentence for the crime, despite the fact that witnesses supported his alibi at the time of the killing and no physical evidence linked him to the scene, according to a news release from the Los Angeles Innocence Project.
DNA eventually ruled out Hastings and instead pointed to Kenneth Packnett, who died in 2020 while serving a prison sentence for kidnapping and rape.
Hastings wrote to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in 2000, asking them to do DNA testing, which he said would “conclusively show that I was not the person involved with the deceased at the time of the crime “.
After the press conference, Hastings said “desperation” had set in as he faced the prospect of spending life in prison for a crime he did not commit.
“There are a lot of hopeless moments to go through,” he said.
“Now I feel vindicated,” he added.
With his record cleared, Hastings wants to focus on “enjoying life,” he said. He is currently attending an entrepreneurship camp and outreach to the homeless community.