VENTURA (CBSLA.com) — After 36 years in prison for murder, Michael Hanline is a free man.
The 68-year-old’s wrongful conviction is the latest case successfully taken on by the California Innocence Project.
Hanline’s release Monday also marked the end of the longest wrongful incarceration in California history.
“It feels like I’m on the front of a missile going through space and stuff is just flying by. I mean it’s just incredible,” he told reporters.
Hanline’s wife, Sandy, stood by him throughout the ordeal.
“I’m just happy it’s done, it’s over with. I just want to go home,” she said as her husband was being processed for release.
The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office asked the court to remove the conviction after new DNA evidence did not match Hanline.
A judge ordered Hanline be sent home wearing a GPS ankle bracelet until the D.A. decides whether or not to retry him for the 1978 murder of J.T. McGarry, also known as Mike Mathers.
According to the D.A., Mathers’ body was found off Highway 33 two days after he disappeared from his home in Ventura.
Hanline was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder with the special circumstance that the crime was committed in the course of a burglary and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Ventura County Deputy D.A. Michael Lief says his office does not have confidence in Hanline’s conviction and a thorough murder investigation is now underway.
“We expect that at the conclusion of that investigation the proper person or persons will be charged with this crime. The DNA of another individual was found on a piece of evidence, and I’ll simply leave it at that,” Lief said.
California Innocence Project spokesman Justin Brooks championed Hanline’s release.
“Through the miracle of DNA, we’ve added an extra piece to the puzzle here that showed that the evidence he was convicted on was false and we now have this DNA evidence to show that he did not commit this crime,” he said.
Hanline, meanwhile, says he’s entering a new world.
“I can’t really express the feelings that I got inside me because it’s just like a whirlwind. It’s a whole new ball game,” he said. “I mean, you know, it’s an age of cellphones and technology and all that stuff is new. I’m a dinosaur.”