A 69-year-old man convicted of murder 34 years ago was freed yesterday after prosecutors told a judge they're no longer sure he committed the crime. Michael Hanline posted $2,500 bail after a morning hearing at which the judge ordered his movements electronically monitored and that he not contact prosecutors, detectives, or the family of the victim. Prosecutors in Ventura County will decide whether they want a retrial at a hearing scheduled for Feb. 27. Hanline was convicted in 1980 of killing Ventura resident JT McGarry and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Hanline's case was taken up by the California Innocence Project, whose lawyers persuaded prosecutors to re-examine the evidence. Subsequent testing showed DNA found at the crime scene did not come from Hanline or his alleged accomplice. In addition, prosecutors withheld evidence that should have been disclosed to Hanline's legal team during the trial. While prosecutors have not concluded Hanline is innocent, "We don't have confidence in the conviction at this point," a prosecutor says. The Innocence Project says Hanline's case was the longest wrongful incarceration in state history. (Read more California stories.)