A California man freed after serving 34 years of a life sentence for murder had the charges formally dismissed yesterday. Michael Hanline, 69, was the longest-serving wrongfully incarcerated inmate in California history, according to the California Innocence Project, whose lawyers worked for 15 years to free him. A Ventura County Superior Court judge dismissed the charges at prosecutors' request. Testing showed DNA at the crime scene didn't come from Hanline or his alleged accomplice. In addition, prosecutors withheld evidence that should have been disclosed to Hanline's lawyers. "When I first got arrested, I figured it might take a year or two to get this all straightened around, but not 36," Hanline said; he was jailed for two years before his conviction.
Hanline was charged with the 1978 killing of a friend, JT McGarry. Prosecutors said Hanline and an accomplice kidnapped McGarry, shot him, and dumped his body. In 1980, Hanline was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life. Hanline's conviction was overturned and he was freed on Nov. 24 after prosecutors told a judge doubts had been raised about the case, but he was still required to wear a GPS ankle bracelet and faced possible retrial. Hanline, who appeared outside court yesterday with his wife, Sandy, noted how the world has changed, referring to "Buck Rogers" gadgets such as cellphones. "Gas isn't 32 cents and a pack of cigarettes isn't 30 cents," he said. Hanline is at least the third person in recent years to be freed from a California prison after serving long sentences for murder.