LOCAL NEWS

WA woman wrongfully imprisoned 35 years will get millions in settlements

Aug 18, 2020, 5:31 AM | Updated: 5:31 am

A Puget Sound resident who holds the record as the longest wrongfully imprisoned woman in U.S. history is set to receive millions in compensation.

When Cathy Woods was exonerated in 2015, she had spent over half her life in a Nevada prison for a murder she didn’t commit.

Now, Woods is on track to get over $9 million in settlements from the cities of Reno and Shreveport, and from the state of Nevada, for the wrongful conviction that cost her 35 years of her life.

“The upshot is that Ms. Woods gets finality and a stipulation to a certificate of innocence from the state of Nevada and $9.6 million to move on with her life,” said Woods’ attorney David Owens.

Amanda Knox talks Jonestown, life after exoneration, and more

Woods initially became a suspect in the 1976 murder of 19-year-old college student Michelle Mitchell in Reno because of a statement she made while involuntarily committed in a psychiatric hospital. Owens said police took advantage of Woods’ struggles with schizophrenia to get a false confession out of her.

“The police decide that they have cracked the case … left with an 11-page, single-spaced statement that they never asked Woods to sign, never read her her Miranda rights before they wrote,” he said. “It’s something that was unfair and impossible because she’s innocent.”

Often in “high profile cases where there’s pressure on police officers to close the case,” Owens said, detectives are desperate to find the perpetrator. In this case, he said, Woods fit the bill — even though her DNA was not found at the crime scene.

“The police sort of just rode roughshod over her rights and concern for them, and just decided this is who they were going to go after,” he said.

In 2014, thanks to technology that hadn’t been available in 1976, DNA evidence that had been found at the scene of the crime connected Rodney Halbower, serving in prison in Oregon, to the murder. Halbower is already serving a life sentence for the murder of two other young women in 1976 in San Francisco.

Owens says Woods’ mental health difficulties were exacerbated while she was in prison for so long –especially in the conditions of the 1980s, which included the use of electro-shock therapy.

“For somebody who has suffered from mental illness that includes being afraid and paranoid, this is literally your worst nightmare — the state has come and arrested you for something you didn’t do,” he said. “Her mental health has been extremely, extremely difficult.”

Woods’ story is not the only one of its kind. Owens said that women who are wrongfully imprisoned are often painted in court as sexualized, emotionally uncontrollable beings who commit romantically-based murders. This was also seen in the high-profile murder trial of another Washington resident, Amanda Knox, who was wrongfully imprisoned for nearly four years in Italy before being acquitted and released.

“There are undoubtedly areas in which there are patterns of sexism and anti-womanism that have run through the phenomenon of wrongful convictions — in particular where it’s a crime of passion and women are sexualized,” Owens said.

In Woods’ case, he said prosecutors portrayed her as a jealous lesbian who had murdered Mitchell for turning down her advances.

“You see a sexualization of women in cases like this, as with Amanda Knox, because it’s also sort of part of the overall problem of not taking women seriously, and viewing them as emotional, and also emotions related to romance,” he said. “And so I do definitely think that there are some connections that we see there.”

Local News

Seattle library...
MyNorthwest Staff

Last of Seattle Public Library branch closures from pandemic comes to an end

Seattle has reopened its NewHolly library branch, meaning that for the first time since the start of the pandemic, all 27 of the city's branches are now up and running.
21 hours ago
...
KIRO 7 News Staff

2 people shot in Seattle; suspect surrenders to police after SWAT negotiation

A suspect surrendered to police Saturday afternoon after two people were shot in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District, the Seattle Police Department said.
21 hours ago
shooting...
MyNorthwest Staff

New rules for visitors to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle

Starting Tuesday, visitors to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or proof of a negative test within three days of visiting.
21 hours ago
seattle police...
Stephanie Klein

Seattle police patrolling lower West Seattle Bridge after reports of covered plates

Seattle police say they are conducting enforcement at the lower West Seattle Bridge after it was discovered that drivers have been obscured their license plates to avoid traffic cameras.
21 hours ago
Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz, unvaccinated officers, seattle police...
Stephanie Klein

Seattle Police Chief asks officers to submit vaccine paperwork

As the Oct. 18 deadline to prove COVID-19 vaccination or risk losing a job looms, Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz sent a heartfelt memo to officers letting them know he doesn't want to lose them.
21 hours ago
handgun...
KIRO Radio Newsdesk

Jail body scanner discovers handgun in folds of woman’s belly

Snohomish County Corrections deputies made an unexpected discovery while booking a 30-year-old woman into jail on Wednesday.
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
WA woman wrongfully imprisoned 35 years will get millions in settlements