October 12, 2020
NV - Nevada Attorney
General Aaron D. Ford is pleased to announce that Cathy Woods, a/k/a Anita
Carter, was granted a Certificate of Innocence and awarded $2,850,000.00 from
the State of Nevada as compensation for the more than 32 years she spent in prison
following her wrongful conviction. Second Judicial District Court Judge Kathleen
M. Drakulich entered stipulated orders on October 9, 2020, which AG Ford fully
supported. The City of Reno, The City of Shreveport, Louisiana and certain
named individual defendants in a separate federal civil rights action also
entered into a global settlement with Ms. Woods.
On February 24,
1976, Michelle Mitchell was murdered near the University of Nevada, Reno campus.
In 1981, following statements made while confined in a mental institution in
Louisiana, Ms. Woods was charged and twice convicted of Ms. Mitchell’s murder
in Washoe County. In 2014, the Washoe County Crime Lab received notification
through the National DNA Database of a DNA hit on a cigarette found near the
crime scene that matched Rodney Halbower, an Oregon prisoner who was imprisoned
for attempted murder and other violent crimes against women. Based upon the new
DNA evidence and a stipulation of the parties, the charges against Ms. Woods
were dismissed and she was released in 2014.
In 2019, the
Nevada Legislature adopted Assembly Bill 267 – codified in NRS 41.900 et seq. – to compensate persons who have
been wrongfully incarcerated if they can prove, by a preponderance of the
evidence, that they did not commit the crime for which they were convicted,
were not an accomplice, and did not otherwise cause their own conviction. Additional
costs, including reasonable attorney fees, educational expenses, counseling
services and certain other reimbursements are also permitted.
your attorney general, the pursuit of justice is paramount to the mission of my
office, and I’m encouraged that after so many years, Ms. Woods has been
declared an innocent woman and will receive compensation for the years of
freedom she lost,” said AG Ford. “While no amount of money can ever
replace our freedom, I couldn’t be prouder of the attorneys in my office who
worked on this case to obtain justice for Ms. Woods. As I told them, ‘Our job
is justice, and you have done a great job of delivering it.'"
This case was
investigated by the Attorney General’s Post-Conviction Division and litigated by
Chief Deputy Attorney General Heather Procter, Deputy Attorney General Sheryl
Serreze, and Deputy Attorney General Jaimie Stilz.