It took less than eight months, after the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) announced a partnership with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice to review microscopic hair analysis cases, for a Washington D.C. man to be cleared by DNA after hair comparisons were used to convict him.
Kevin Martin was convicted of a 1982 rape and murder largely based on the claim that a hair at the scene matched his hair. He spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Martin always maintained his innocence even writing a letter in 2007 to a D.C. judge about his innocence claims.
Martin told FOX5 in an interview, “My name was dragged through the mud. There was a lot of mental anguish I went through and it was painful.”
Martin said, “When [my lawyer] told me this hair fiber…is enough to connect [me] to the crime…I’m like…what hair? I wasn’t there!”
Ursula Brown’s partially clothed body was discovered between a school and an apartment building in D.C. She had been shot once in the head, slashed, and raped. A pair of sneakers, which prosecutors said belonged to the victim became key to the case. At trial, the prosecution said that the FBI found one of Martin’s hairs on the shoes.
Bernie Grimm, Martin’s attorney, filed a claim, a few years later, that the prosecutor’s were wrong because no one ever actually concluded that the hairs matched. The FBI simply stated that it looked like Martin’s. Also, the sneakers were never definitively linked to Brown. New testing on a rape kit confirms that Martin is innocent, he was excluded.
Martin told the station, “[My lawyer] said, you’re cleared…I was like…for real? and then it really hit me…she said…It came back, it’s not you. I said, I know that and then I started crying…”
Martin’s is the fifth D.C. case since 2009 in which FBI hair comparisons have been found to be wrong. Donald Gates, Kirk Odom, Santae Tribble, and Cleveland Wright were all previously exonerated after being wrongfully convicted using FBI hair analyses.