Washington, DC, United States (4E) – A District of Columbia Superior Court on Monday exonerated a man who spent 26 years in prison for a 1982 murder he did not commit.
Judge Robert I. Richter made the decision after new DNA tests on Kevin Martin, 50, did not match DNA evidence found by FBI forensic experts from the victim 32 years ago.
Martin, who was granted parole in 2009, had professed innocence since he was accused of raping and murdering 19-year-old Ursula Brown in 1982. Martin, who was 17 then and booked for robberies, pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges and was sentenced to 35 years in prison in 1984 because DNA from a pubic hair found on the victim matched with his DNA as the FBI claimed at the time.
Martin wrote to the judge and defense lawyers insisting innocence until Lawyer Bernard Grimm, and later the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, took his case.
Evidence from Brown’s killing were recovered in November minus the hair but there were other genetic evidence that did not match Martin’s DNA. Instead, the DNA matched that of William D. Davidson, who was among the murder suspects but claimed he only acted as the lookout. Davidson is serving a sentence of 65 years to life for multiple offenses related to “bump-and-rape” cases, including the killing of Brown.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael T. Ambrosino and Grimm said in court papers that Martin is innocent of the rape and murder of Brown.
The long overdue exoneration came as Martin’s public defender and U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. acknowledged the FBI errors. Machen also called for Martin’s conviction to be overturned and the latter be declared innocent of the crime.
Martin’s exoneration marks the fifth time since 2009 that D.C. federal prosecutors admitted that errors by the FBI led to a wrongful conviction.
For two and a half years already, Machen’s office has been reviewing similar criminal convictions that involved hair matches by the FBI as demanded by the D.C. Public Defender Service. The review already led to the exoneration of four other men earlier after they spent decades in prison.