Crime

Freed After Serving 36 Years For A Crime He Did Not Commit, Man Plans To Sue County And Sheriff's Office

| by Nicholas Roberts
Michael Hanline.Michael Hanline.

A man who was freed from prison in 2014 after serving 36 years for a murder he did not commit plans to sue Ventura County, California, as well as its district attorney and sheriff's offices.

Michael Ray Hanline was convicted in 1980 of murdering Ventura County resident J.T. McGarry two years earlier, and was originally sentenced to life without parole, according to Courthouse News Service. At the time of his conviction, Hanline was believed by prosecutors to have been romantically involved with McGarry's bookkeeper, Mary Bischoff.

In 2014, DNA evidence was taken at the crime scene and the results did not match Hanline's. Los Angeles Times reported that Hanline was first released from prison on Nov. 24, 2014, after a judge overturned the 1980 conviction, but he still faced the possibility of a retrial. All charges were dismissed against Hanline by District Attorney Gregory Totten in April 2015.

Totten's office maintained the case against Hanline was still supported by probable cause, but could not be proven beyond reasonable doubt, according to Los Angeles Times.

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Hanline's complaint, reproduced in detail by Courthouse News Service, alleges the county, district attorney and sheriff's office conspired with private defense attorney Bruce Robertson to frame him for McGarry's murder.

The complaint also alleges Robertson regularly used and sold cocaine out of his office during the time of the investigation. It states Robertson kept a number of Pennzoil cans with false bottoms in his office for the purposes of storing cocaine, and that one of these false-bottomed cans was found at McGarry's residence after his murder.

Finally, the complaint alleges Robertson had persuaded Bischoff to fly to California to answer questions about the murder. He did so by first taking her to several bars where she had alcoholic beverages, and then taking her to the sheriff's office for an interview. She reportedly implicated Hanline in the murder only after repeated prompting from Robertson.

Hanline is the longest-serving inmate in California to be wrongfully convicted of a crime.

Sources: Courthouse News Service, Los Angeles Times / Photo credit: California Department Of Corrections And Rehabilitation via Los Angeles Times