VENTURA (CBSLA.com) — A judge dismissed murder charges Wednesday against a wrongfully convicted man who served 36 years in prison.

Michael Hanline, who is the longest serving wrongfully incarcerated inmate in California history, was at the hearing Wednesday before Judge Jeffrey Bennett in Ventura.

“I always believed it was gonna happen, I never believed I’d spend the rest of my life in prison, but man, 36 years is a long, long time,” Hanline said.

A judge overturned Hanline’s 1978 murder conviction in November after the California Innocence Project filed a petition, alleging the prosecution withheld evidence of his innocence. DNA testing on evidence at the crime scene also failed to connect Hanline to the crime.

Hanline was released from prison on Nov. 24, 2014.

“It is impossible for anyone except Mike Hanline to truly understand what it’s like to lose 36 years of your life to the criminal justice system,” Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project, said in a statement.

Hanline was convicted of the shooting death of J.T. McGarry, who prosecutors argued was murdered because both men were romantically involved with the same woman. California Innocence Project attorneys say Hanline always claimed others were responsible for the murder and that he had been wrongfully accused.

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