Michael Haine has been behind bars in California since 1978 where he was serving a life sentence for a murder. The thing is, Michael didn’t actually commit the crime.
In 1999, over two decades after his was imprisoned, he contacted the newly created California Innocence Project to help prove that he was innocent. Since then, they had been working tirelessly to get him released.
In 2010, the group had successfully proven that the investigators, prosecution and the District Attorney had all colluded to seal important records that proved Haine’s innocence. It was believed that defense attorney Bruce Robertson had been trying to shift the blame from his clients and towards Micheal. Since over 30 years had passed, many important witnesses and investigators including Robertson had died or disappeared, and so the District Court Judge decided to uphold the conviction. The CIP did not give up, and in conjunction with the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, new DNA testing proved that Michael had nothing to do with the murder. On November 24, 2014, he was finally released from prison as California’s longest wrongfully convicted person. He is the first one of the “California 12” that the Innocence Project has been working with to be released.
So what does a man do when he walks out into the street as a free man for the first time in 36 years? Look to the sky and take in all of the things that had been taken from him. Riding in a car feels surreal to Michael and he will struggle to adjust to a life he has long been away from. But for now, let him serve as a reminder to be grateful for the simple things in life.
For more information on the California Innocence Project, or Michael’s story visit their website here.