Nevada pays $2.85M to woman wrongly imprisoned for decades
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada is paying another $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, the state attorney general announced Monday.
Cathy Woods, now 70, also received a Certificate of Innocence in the 1976 murder of a University of Nevada, Reno student, Attorney General Aaron Ford said in a statement. He said the settlement was approved Friday by a state court judge in Reno.
“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, Washington.
She received a separate $3 million settlement from Washoe County in 2019 and $3 million in August from the cities of Reno and Shreveport, Louisiana.
She is the second former Nevada inmate compensated under a law passed by state lawmakers in 2019 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, and a former jailhouse informant recanted testimony that Berry told him he was guilty.
Woods also used the name Anita Carter. She was 26 and worked as a bartender when Michelle Mitchell, 19, was found in a garage near the UNR campus with her throat slashed and her hands tied, according to the exonerations registry.
Woods moved about a year later to Louisiana, where in 1979 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.
She was released from prison in 2014 after DNA from a cigarette found near the murder scene linked Oregon inmate Rodney Halbower to Mitchell’s death. Halbower is serving life in prison for two other murders in the San Francisco Bay Area the same year Mitchell was killed.
Woods sued for damages from the state, county, cities and former detectives she accused of coercing a fabricated confession while she was a psychiatric patient in Louisiana.