Ventura man freed from prison after 1978 murder conviction overturned

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After 36 years behind bars for murder, Michael Hanline stepped out into the fresh air of freedom Monday. Thanks in part to DNA evidence, prosecutors determined he may not have committed the crime.

After 36 years in prison for murder, Michael Hanline, 69, walked out of lock-up a free man. This after the Ventura County District Attorney agreed with a judge's decision to overturn his murder conviction based on missteps during his initial trial and new DNA evidence pointing to his innocence.

"I am so thankful to be out of prison for the first time in 36 years," said Hanline. "I was first incarcerated in 1978, and I've watched half my life go by behind bars. I've always hoped this day would come, but I can't believe it's actually happening now."

"With this action that just happened in court, we end the longest wrongful incarceration in California history," said Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project. "Michael Hanline has been wrongfully incarcerated for 36 years."

"I'm just happy it's done, it's over with, I just want to go home," said Sandee Hanline, Michael's wife.

For years, lawyers for the California Innocence Project argued important documents that could have exonerated Hanline were withheld in the original trial. Hanline was convicted of shooting J.T. McGarry to death in 1978.

The District Attorney's Office would not provide details about the DNA evidence, but says after reviewing the initial trial and looking at the DNA evidence, they agreed with the decision to overturn his conviction.

However, the District Attorney's Office plans to retry Hanline on the same murder charges.

"The original charges are still in place. The investigation is going to look at all facets of the crime and we will determine if anybody else ought to be charged," said prosecutor Michael Lief.

Hanline is out of jail on a $2,500 bail. The judge ordered his movements electronically monitored and that he not contact prosecutors, detectives or the family of the victim.

He is expected to be tried for murder next year.

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conviction overturnedmurderprisonDNAVentura
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