Cathy Woods, Nevada Woman Wrongly Imprisoned for 35 Years, Awarded $3 Million in Lawsuit

Justice may be delayed, but it is never denied. That proved to be the case when a woman who spent 35 years in jail for a crime she didn’t commit was released and will now receive $3 million in a partial settlement. 

The story of 68-year-old Cathy Woods is one ridden with emotions. Cathy was convicted for the murder of a 19-year-old in 1980. She, however, regained her freedom in 2015 when DNA results confirmed that she had been wrongly imprisoned.

Gavel and a law book  | Photo: Shutterstock

Gavel and a law book | Photo: Shutterstock

With her wrongful arrest and conviction, Cathy Woods now holds the record as the longest-ever wrongfully jailed person in the history of the United States. 

CATHY WOOD’S CONVICTION

Cathy was convicted for the murder of a Reno nursing student, Michelle Mitchelle, whose body was found, with her throat slashed, and her hands tied behind her back. 

After Michelle’s body was found, her case went under the radar until 1979 when Cathy Woods made a supposed confessionary statement to a counsellor, saying that she was involved in Michelle’s murder. Cathy was then a patient at a mental hospital in Louisiana.

The statement she made proved to be that on which her conviction was made. But a civil rights attorney, Elizabeth Wang, who helped in fighting for Cathy’s release and partial settlement told PEOPLE that Cathy’s statement then didn’t give any information other than that which had already been reported in the news. 

Wang also explained that Cathy was dealing with mental health issues at that time, and that made her make a vague statement in the first place. 

According to Wang, Cathy never confessed to the murder in her statement, though the police officer said she did. Cathy was convicted in 1980, and again in 1984 after a Nevada Supreme Court overturned the initial conviction. 

CATHY WOODS REGAINS HER FREEDOM

When Cathy was convicted, there was nothing like DNA technology at that time. However, after the technology’s birth, Cathy got to know about the new technology, and with the help of a public defender, filed for the testing of evidence from the crime scene. 

DNA testing of a cigarette butt found in the garage close to the victim’s body linked Michelle’s murder to Rodney Halbower, a serial killer already serving time in prison. 

Cathy was thus exonerated, and four years after her release, unanimous approval from the Board of County Commission will see her compensated. 

Cathy stays with her relatives in Washington, and Wang explained that the money from the compensation would be used for her care, as no manner of payment will suffice for the ordeal she had been through. 

In a separate incident, a man who was wrongfully incarcerated for a rape charge has been set free after spending 36 years in jail. Archie Williams’ imprisonment came even after multiple evidence proved he was innocent of the crime.

His release again shows that justice will always prevail; it may just take time.

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