SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Gov. Jerry Brown has pardoned a man who spent 38 years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of murder.

Craig Coley was convicted in the murder of an ex-girlfriend and her 4-year-old son in 1978.

But decades later, DNA evidence shined a new light on the case.

Coley petitioned for clemency in 2015 and Brown ordered the parole board to investigate the case. That investigation revealed a former police detective, a police captain and a police officer said the detective who originally investigated the case mishandled evidence.

The Ventura County District Attorney’s office originally opposed clemency, but the investigation and new evidence changed their mind.

“We are now convinced Mr. Coley is factually innocent,” Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten said. “It is an absolutely shocking and tragic reminder that the best justice system man ever created is not perfect.”

Detectives began working with the D.A.’s office and found that pieces of forensic evidence destroyed soon afterwards by court orders at the time were still in a private lab. Detectives obtained the samples reanalyzed them with modern DNA technology.



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