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Cleared After 35 Years in Prison, She'll Collect $3M

Cathy Woods was the longest wrongfully incarcerated woman in the US
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 29, 2019 11:22 AM CDT
Cathy Woods appears in Washoe District court in Reno, Nev., on Sept. 8, 2014.   (Andy Barron/The Reno Gazette-Journal via AP, File)

(Newser) – A woman who spent 35 years in prison for a Nevada murder she didn't commit will get $3 million in a partial settlement of a federal civil rights lawsuit. Cathy Woods, 68, will continue to seek additional damages from the city of Reno and former detectives she accuses of coercing a fabricated confession from her while she was a patient at a Louisiana mental hospital in 1979, reports the AP. Woods—believed to be the longest-ever wrongfully incarcerated woman in US history—was released from prison in 2015 when new evidence linked the 1976 killing of Reno college student Michelle Mitchell to an Oregon inmate, Rodney Halbower, who has since has been convicted of two San Francisco Bay Area slayings that happened during the same period.

Woods, who was bartending in Reno in 1976, was extremely psychotic and never should have been interrogated by detectives, Wang said, adding the settlement "will go at least some way toward providing care for her." A public defender previously suggested Woods gave a false confession in an effort to secure a private room at the hospital. Her conviction was vacated for good in 2014 after DNA technology not previously available linked evidence to Halbower. The Washoe County Commission then voted 4-0 on Tuesday to pay $3 million to settle a portion of the federal lawsuit that had named former county District Attorney Cal Dunlap as a defendant. Wang said she will ask a federal judge to drop him as a defendant after the partial settlement is finalized. A separate lawsuit filed against the state earlier this month also will continue, Wang said.

(Read more wrongful conviction stories.)

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