LOS ANGELES (AFP) – A 68-year-old man was released from prison in California on Monday after 36 years behind bars, following a judge’s ruling casting doubt on his murder conviction.
Michael Hanline was found guilty in 1978 of killing motorcyclist JT McGarry and jailed for life without the possibility of parole, but had always proclaimed his innocence.
“Investigations… have found new evidence that casts doubt upon the correctness of the jury’s verdict,” said the district attorney of Ventura County north of LA, Gregory Totten.
Hanline, who was met by his wife outside Solano prison, was ordered to wear an electronic bracelet pending further investigations into his case, which could in theory result in a retrial.
“The court has not made any determination that he is innocent,” Michael Schwartz, a spokesman for the Ventura prosecutor’s office told AFP, noting that he was “still charged with murder.”
A hearing is now scheduled for February 27 to decide whether to seek a retrial, he added.
McGarry disappeared from his home in November 1978, and a few days later, his bullet-riddled body was found near a road some 30 miles (50 kilometres) away. Hanline was arrested after an investigation lasting a few weeks.