In a case that demonstrates the risks inherent in the death penalty, Maurice Hastings was found “factually innocent” in Los Angeles of the crime that could have sent him to death row and eventual execution. On March 1, 2023, Judge William Ryan dismissed all charges and freed Hastings, who was serving a sentence of life without parole.

The District Attorney’s Office had sought the death penalty for Hastings, which enables the prosecution to obtain a jury that is willing to impose a death sentence, and therefore may be more conviction prone. The jury may believe that if the death penalty is being sought, there is probably little doubt about the defendant’s guilt. During his incarceration, Hastings maintained his innocence. The DA’s Office repeatedly denied his request for DNA testing until finally in June of 2022, with the help of the Innocence Project and the DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit, a DNA test essentially excluded him from the murder.

The current DA, George Gascón, commented, “Maurice Hastings survived a nightmare. He spent nearly four decades in prison exhausting every avenue to prove his innocence while being repeatedly denied. But Mr. Hastings has remained steadfast and faithful that one day he would hear a judge proclaim his innocence.”

At a news conference, Hastings, now 69, stated, “I was really overwhelmed. It was kind of unreal. In a sense, you want it to be true, but then you don’t want to be disappointed. I’ve been disappointed. I had tears. I asked, ‘Could this be it? Could this be the end?’ I was very emotional.”


Nathan Solis and Noah Goldberg, L.A. man impris­oned for 38 years after wrong­ful mur­der con­vic­tion is found inno­cent, Los Angeles Times, March 22023.