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NV Pays Nearly $3M to Woman Exonerated of Murder

Nevada is paying $2.85 million to a woman who spent almost 34 years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit before she was exonerated by DNA evidence, says state Attorney General Aaron Ford. Cathy Woods, 70, received a Certificate of Innocence in the 1976 murder of a University of Nevada Reno student, reports the Associated Press. “Ms. Woods has been declared an innocent woman and will receive compensation for the years of freedom she lost,” Ford said. Woods was the longest-ever wrongfully incarcerated woman in U.S. history, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. She now lives near Anacortes, Wa. She received a separate $3 million settlement from Washoe County, Nv., in 2019 and $3 million in August from the cities of Reno and Shreveport, La.

Woods is the second former Nevada inmate compensated under a 2019 law allowing for payment to people wrongfully convicted of a crime. DeMarlo Berry, 45, received $2.25 million and an innocence certificate in August after serving more than 22 years in prison in the 1994 killing of a fast-food restaurant manager in Las Vegas. Another inmate already serving a life sentence for a separate murder confessed to the killing. Woods was 26 working as a bartender when Michelle Mitchell, 19, was found in a garage near the campus with her throat slashed and her hands tied. Woods moved a year later to Louisiana, where she told a counselor at a psychiatric hospital about the slaying of a girl named Michelle in Reno. Woods was tried in Nevada and convicted of murder in 1980. The state Supreme Court overturned that case but Woods was convicted again in 1985.