Man wrongfully convicted of 1978 Ventura County murder to be set free

A man who has spent 36 years behind bars for murder he didn’t commit could be released next week.

New evidence resulted in a judge overturning the conviction of 69-year-old Michael Hanline, the Ventura County District Attorney’s office announced this week.

Hanline was found guilty in 1980 of first-degree murder in the 1978 death of Ventura resident J.T. McGarry.

New DNA testing of crime scene evidence found material that came from a man who isn’t Hanline or his alleged accomplice.Hanline is expected to be released following a court hearing Monday. Prosecutors will conduct an investigation and decide whether to retry him.

The California Innocence Project, which took up the case in 1999, says Hanline’s case was the longest wrongful incarceration in state history.

According to the Innoocence Project Web site, "Over years of investigation, the California Innocence Project was able to uncover police reports that had been sealed before Michael’s trial. The reports implicated others, not Michael, in the crime. Further, the police reports impeached the prosecution’s key witnesses. It turned out that a defense attorney named Bruce Robertson who represented many of the prosecution’s witnesses in other cases, made concerted efforts to steer the investigation away from his clients and toward Michael. Robertson threatened witnesses and intimidated them into testifying against Michael. Further, a witness placed Robertson at J.T.’s home the night he was killed.

Before Michael’s trial, Robertson and the Office of the District Attorney asked the court for a secret hearing outside of the presence of Michael and his attorney. They convinced the court to allow critical police reports to be sealed, under the guise of protecting an anonymous informant. The sealed police reports came to light only after the California Innocence Project took on the case."

 


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