Michael Hanline spent 36 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. When he was finally released, one of the first things he asked for was a hamburger.
Specifically, he wanted a bacon cheeseburger that he had seen “in commercials.”
“Mmm. My oh my,” Hanline, wearing a sweatshirt with a stylized version of the word "exonerate," says as he bites into the burger. “That’s what meat tastes like, huh?”
Hanline was originally released in November last year. However, it wasn’t until this week that a judge announced a complete dismissal of charges against him, following news that the Ventura County district attorney's office had decided to drop the murder charge against him.
“After a months-long investigation to determine whether Hanline should be retried, the district attorney has now concluded that the case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and has made a motion to dismiss the case,” District Attorney Gregory Totten said in a statement.
Hanline was convicted of the 1978 murder of a truck driver named J.T. McGarry. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
When evidence in the case was later re-examined, it was discovered that the DNA at the crime scene did not match Hanline, and that prosecutors had withheld evidence during the trial, per the AP.
In November, Hanline’s conviction was overturned. However, he was still made to wear a GPS ankle bracelet and a possibility of a retrial loomed. That is, until this week when his charges were finally dismissed.
On April 20, the California Innocence Project, which worked for more than a decade to help secure Hanline’s release, posted a moving video on YouTube showing the 69-year-old man’s first day of freedom following his release from jail.
“He is finally free,” said Justin Brooks, Hanline’s attorney and director of the California Innocence Project, per the Los Angeles Times.
Hanline's case was the longest wrongful incarceration in California's history.
Reuters reported in November that prosecutors were still investigating who might have killed McGarry. It is unclear if police will reopen the murder case.