Correcting and Preventing Wrongful Convictions in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

Special Prosecutor Concedes No Evidence to Recharge MAIP Client Michael Hash

Photo by the Virginia Department of Corrections

Michael Wayne Hash has finally been cleared of the charges for which he spent 12 years wrongly imprisoned. At a hearing on August 20, 2012, special prosecutor Raymond Morrogh asked Judge Susan Whitlock nolle prosse a 2000 murder charge, based on the determination that there was insufficient evidence to charge Mr. Hash for the crime. This request was made after a federal judge in Roanoke, Virginia granted full habeas corpus relief in Hash’s capital murder case based on the “outrageous misconduct” of Culpeper law enforcement officials.

More than a decade ago, Hash, just 19 years old at the time, was convicted of capital murder in Culpeper County and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. No physical evidence implicated Hash or the two other teenage boys charged with the crime. In turn, Hash was convicted based only on the testimony of three suspect witnesses. Hash’s direct appeals and a state habeas corpus petition were all denied, notwithstanding evidence of police and prosecutorial misconduct.

Convinced that Hash was innocent and that his trial was unfair, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) and law firm Hunton & Williams took up Hash’s case. On April 15, 2010, they filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia and undertook an investigation that revealed a pattern of misconduct on the part of Culpeper officials.

On March 14, 2012, Judge James Turk granted full federal habeas corpus relief to Hash, who is now 31 years old. MAIP’s Executive Director Shawn Armbrust, in conjunction with the team at Hunton & Williams led by partner Matthew Bosher and investigator Stanley Lapekas, proved that Hash’s conviction was based entirely on contrived, manufactured witness testimony and tainted by extensive police and prosecutorial misconduct. Such an outcome is a rare victory, and one that would likely not have been possible for Hash without the work of Hunton & Williams, which logged more than 2,000 pro bono hours on this case.

In his opinion, Judge Turk stated that “the Court finds that Hash is entitled to habeas corpus relief…[T]he Court is disturbed by the miscarriage of justice that occurred in this case and finds that Hash’s trial is an example of an extreme malfunction in the state criminal justice.” Judge Turk cited “a cavalcade of evidence demonstrating police and prosecutorial misconduct,” including:

• Orchestrating a transfer to place Mr. Hash in a prison 50 miles from Culpeper to spend one night in a cell block with a professional snitch, creating a pretext for the transfer, and then covering it up until December of 2011;
• Concealing promises to assist two prosecution witnesses in exchange for their false testimony against Hash;
• Failing to turn over critical exculpatory materials, including reports that key prosecution witnesses failed polygraph examinations; and
• Coaching prosecution witnesses.

The opinion is available at:

http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/OPINIONS/TURK/HASH2254MEMORANDUMOPINION.PDF.

“The Court’s opinion validates what our client, his family, and his legal team have said from the beginning – that Mike Hash did not commit this crime and that the tactics used to obtain his conviction were reprehensible,” said Armbrust.

“We are thrilled that our client has finally been exonerated,” said Bosher. “There has never been any credible evidence that Mr. Hash had anything to do with this crime. He spent the last 12 years — his entire adult life — in prison for a crime he did not commit because the system completely failed him. In particular, the conduct of law enforcement officials in Culpeper was outrageous and offensive.”

Special prosecutor Morrogh’s request echos these sentiments, as does his post-hearing comment that he does not intends to recharge Hash. Morrogh further explained, “We’re taking a fresh look at this case…we’re starting from scratch and will continue until we solve it.”

More on Michael Hash’s case:

Michael Wayne Hash won’t face retrial
August 20, 2012 – ABC-7 WJLA

Decision Due on Hash Retrial
August 20, 2012 – NBC-29 WVIR-TV

Hash ready to begin life as a free man
August 20, 2012 – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Hash ‘completely free’
August 20, 2012 – Star-Exponent

DNA test under way in Hash case
April 17, 2012 – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Michael Wayne Hash Free After Judge Slams Official Misconduct in Murder Case, Tosses Life Sentence
March 16, 2012 – The Huffington Post

Misconduct in a murder investigation?
March 11, 2012 – The Washington Post

A beam of hope
March 11, 2012 – The Washington Post

As murder conviction tossed after 12 years, Va. family hopes son will be home soon
March 10, 2012 – The Washington Post

Preparing for a son’s homecoming
March 10, 2012 – The Washington Post

For Michael Wayne Hash, mother’s persistence may yield freedom
March 4, 2012 – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Verdict tossed in 1996 Culpeper slaying
March 1, 2012 – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Federal judge overturns Hash’s 2001 murder conviction
March 1, 2012 – Culpeper Star Exponent

U.S. judge overturns Culpeper capital murder conviction
February 29, 2012 – Richmond Times-Dispatch

Judge overturns man’s murder conviction in 1996 Va. killing
February 29, 2012 – Associated Press

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