Woman cleared of murder after 35 years gets $3 million
A woman who hails from Nevada has been cleared of murder charges and awarded the sum of 3 million dollars, after spending 35 years behind bars.
Cathy Woods, a 68-year-old woman who was exonerated on the basis of DNA evidence found on a cigarette at the crime scene, intends on continuing to seek additional damages from the city of Reno.
Woods alleges that homicide detectives coerced a fabricated confession out of her while she was a patient at a Louisiana mental hospital in 1979. Woods, who suffered from a variety of mental health issues, including severe psychosis, was convicted in 1980 for the 1976 killing of 19-year-old Michelle Mitchell.
She had been bartending in Reno at the time of Mitchell's death, and living with her mother. But her lawyers assert that her delusional state of mind made her easily-suggestible. The initial ruling was overturned by Nevada's Supreme Court, but she was sentenced again - a conviction the high court upheld - in 1988.
In 2014, forensic technology not available at the time of the murders linked evidence to Halbower. Detectives in Reno and Northern California subsequently identified the true culprit as The Gypsy Hills Killer, aka Rodney L Halbower.
Halbower was first jailed for sexually assaulting a female blackjack dealer in downtown Reno in November 1975, an attack that occurred roughly two months before Mitchell was killed, a few blocks away from where she lived.
In a recent statement, per NBC News, the Washoe County state department issued a statement in which they claimed: "The conviction and subsequent incarceration of Woods for murder is a tragic situation that Washoe County hopes is never repeated."
They added: "While money can rarely compensate an individual for loss of freedom, Washoe County sincerely hopes that this monetary settlement will be utilized for the best possible care of Woods."
Meanwhile, Washoe County public defender Maizie Pusich told The Associated Press in 2014 that Woods' confession was a product of wanting to get a private room in the hospital where she was being treated.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, Woods (who now lives with relatives near Anacortes in Washington), was the longest-ever wrongfully incarcerated woman in the history of the United States.