Court declares Craig Coley factually innocent

VENTURA, California – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten announced today that the Ventura County Superior Court has vacated Craig Coley’s convictions for murder, and has made a finding that he is factually innocent.

Mr. Coley was found guilty of the 1978 murders of Rhonda Wicht and her 4-year-old son Donald. He served over 38 years in custody for the crimes. New evidence obtained during an investigation by the Simi Valley Police Department and Ventura County District Attorney’s Office, including DNA evidence, determined that Mr. Coley had not committed the murders.  On November 22, 2017, with support by District Attorney Gregory Totten and Police Chief David Livingstone, Governor Jerry Brown issued a full and unconditional pardon, concluding that “Mr. Coley did not commit these crimes.”  Mr. Coley was released from prison the same day.

The Ventura County Public Defender, on behalf of Mr. Coley, filed a motion to vacate the conviction and for a judicial finding of factual innocence.  The District Attorney joined in the motions.  In a brief hearing today, the Ventura County Superior Court, the Honorable Ryan J. Wright, Judge presiding, granted both motions.  Mr. Coley was not present but was represented by the Public Defender’s Office.

Today’s rulings are a judicial determination of innocence and bring the court records in line with the Governor’s determination in the pardon.  The rulings also ensure that Mr. Coley will receive monetary compensation from the California Victim Compensation Board.

Mr. Coley suffered a profound injustice in this case. The District Attorney remains committed to reexamination of cases in which claims of factual innocence are made and the use of modern scientific techniques that were not available when the cases were tried.


The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office is the public prosecutor for the county’s 850,000 residents. The office employs approximately 280 employees including attorneys, investigators, victim advocates, and other professional support staff who strive to seek justice, ensure public safety, and protect the rights of crime victims.

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William Hicks
William Hicks
3 years ago

California Victim Compensation Board will be glad to compensate Mr. Coley with our tax dollars.

True justice would require that those responsible for his sentence be the ones compensating Mr. Coley.