Wrongly convicted Nevada woman to receive $3M for 33 years in prison

Clyde Hughes

Aug. 29 (UPI) -- A Nevada woman who spent more than three decades in prison for a homicide she didn't commit will receive $3 million as part of a settlement from a Nevada county, officials decided.

Cathy Woods, who remained in jail for 33 years, was approved to receive the money by Washoe County county commissioners this week.


Woods, 68, was released from prison in 2014 after DNA evidence cleared her in the 1976 death of Michelle Mitchell. Woods had been convicted largely on the basis of a confession she made while institutionalized in a Louisiana psychiatric facility. Her attorneys said she'd been diagnosed as schizophrenic and was "floridly psychotic and hearing voices" at the time of her statement.

DNA evidence from a cigarette butt from the scene ultimately pointed to former Oregon inmate Rodney Halbower, who's already serving a life sentence in California for the deaths of two teenagers.

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"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," the county said in a statement.

"The conviction and subsequent incarceration of Woods for murder is a tragic situation that Washoe County hopes is never repeated."

According to the Michigan-based National Registry of Exonerations, Woods' 33 years and nine months in prison made her the longest-serving wrongfully convicted woman in U.S. history.

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The Nevada Supreme Court actually overturned Woods' conviction in 1985, but prosecutors retried her and won another conviction. Her attorneys have also filed a federal lawsuit against state of Nevada and Louisiana authorities.

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