Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Man who spent 26 years in prison for murder he didn't commit finally exonerated after DNA evidence from the 1982 homicide proves he's an innocent man

A Washington D.C. man was officially cleared on Monday of a murder he didn't commit, but that sent him to prison for more than a quarter-century.

Kevin Martin was convicted of the 1982 murder of Ursula Brown based on faulty evidence from an elite unit of FBI forensic investigators who have been responsible for the wrongful convictions of at least five people.

In Martin's case, prosecutors claimed they had found one of his pubic hairs on one of Brown's sneakers, which was enough to get his court-appointed attorney to convince him to accept a plea deal - even though he maintained that he didn't commit the murder.

Martin pleaded guilty under what is called an Alford plea, a rare plea option that allows the accused to not admit guilt, but acknowledges that prosecutors have enough evidence to get a conviction.

'I was just getting pressure from all ends,' he said. 'My lawyer kept telling me nobody is believing that you are innocent man. Too much evidence is pointing, saying that you were there.'

Martin spent years trying to convince people that he wasn't guilty, but it wasn't until Bernie Grimm, a lawyer with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, got involved in 2001 and started looking into his case.

'He believed in his lawyer, he believed in the prosecutor and he believed in the judge,' Grimm told MyFoxDC.com. 'It was a disaster.'

Following his conviction, the evidence against him that was collected by prosecutors was lost. When it was recovered, the supposed hair that led to Martin's plea was not with the other evidence.

However, other DNA evidence that wasn't revealed when Martin initially was charged with Brown's death was discovered along with the old evidence - and it exonerated Martin.

The DNA evidence belonged to William Davidson, a man who initially pointed the finger at Martin for Brown's murder, and who currently is serving a life sentence.

'This whole system was against me,' said Martin. 'I kept crying out saying I was innocent -- the whole time -- I didn't have anything to do with it. I wasn't there. It was like nobody was hearing me. I feel I was by myself.'

Martin was released from prison and placed on parole in 2009, but he wasn't officially cleared of any involvement in the crime until Monday, after a lengthy battle with the courts.

'I think this demonstrates that it is never too late to do justice,' U.S Attorney Ron Machen said. 'Thirty years ago, Mr. Martin was unfairly branded a rapist and a murderer. He wasn't guilty of those crimes, and today, he was exonerated and it highlights the importance of our hair and fiber review.'

The FBI continues to re-examine cases that relied on hair analysis from the tainted forensic unit that caused Martin to plead guilty to a crime he didn't commit.

'We have had over 30 assistant U.S. Attorneys going back through thousands of cases looking to see if we could have gotten it wrong years ago,' Machen said.

Martin currently lives in San Francisco and is engaged to be married. Now that he's been exonerated, he stands to receive $50,000 for each of the 26 years that he was wrongly imprisoned.

Original report here




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