|Date / Location:||November 10, 1982/ DC||Conviction:||Manslaughter while armed|
|Year of Conviction:||1984||Release Date:||July 21, 2014|
|Sentence:||15 - life||Sentence Served:||26 years|
|Real perpetrator found?:||Yes||Contributing cause to wrongful conviction:||Faulty forensic science, snitch|
On July 21, 2014, Kevin Martin walked out of the front door of the District of Columbia Superior Court a free man, 30 years after pleading guilty to a rape and murder he did not commit. The charges were based on faulty forensic science.
Mr. Martin was arrested and charged with abducting, raping, and killing a young woman on Halloween night in 1982, after allegedly staging the rear-ending of her car in order to rob her. Mr. Martin steadfastly proclaimed his innocence, but the prosecution was armed with seemingly irrefutable evidence: an FBI lab report claiming that a hair found on the victim’s shoe matched Martin’s pubic hair. While this type of hair analysis would in time be debunked as junk science, Martin believed that this evidence would seal his fate, lead to his conviction, and cause him to die in prison. Martin entered an alford plea, a guilty plea where the defendant does not admit to committing the crime yet acknowledges that the evidence the prosecution has would likely persuade a jury to find him guilty. This enabled Martin to avoid a life sentence and to continue to maintain his innocence — something Martin would spend the next 30 years doing.
Mr. Grimm, Martin’s longtime attorney, conducted a thorough evidence search several years ago, but the evidence could not be located because it was being housed in an old warehouse and was not properly labelled. In the wake of four exonerations in hair comparison cases obtained by the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) has been reviewing cases in which such testimony was used. Between the time of the initial evidence search and the USAO review, decades of old physical evidence in DC were reorganized and barcoded. When the USAO went to search for the evidence in Mr. Martin’s case this year, they found it properly barcoded and stored.
Through the joint effort of the USAO, Mr. Grimm, and MAIP, DNA testing was performed on the rape kit collected from the victim. The testing proved what Mr. Martin has always maintained; he is an innocent man. It also proved who the real perpetrator was, thus solving the crime. D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert I. Richter signed a Certificate of Actual Innocence on July 21, 2014, vacating Mr. Martin’s conviction and clearing his name after 30 years.
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