A Maryland man who has been in prison for more than two decades for a murder he says he did not commit was denied post-conviction DNA testing because evidence in the case has disappeared, according to prosecutors.
William H. Ray was convicted of murder in 1988 and sentenced to life in prison plus ten years, in what police believe was a robbery gone awry, reported the Baltimore Sun.
After Ray saw several appeals fail, his attorneys at the Innocence Project at the University of Baltimore School of Law filed for DNA testing on a key piece of evidence from the 1988 trial – a baseball cap allegedly worn by the killer.
Unfortunately, the prosecution has been unsuccessful in locating the hat for testing.
(Ray’s attorney Justin) Esworthy said the lost hat was a blow to his client’s quest to be cleared.
“A hat is one of the best places to get DNA…It was August, the assailant was sweating and it was soaked into a cotton sweatband and into the hat, so it would absorb it,” Esworthy said. “If the DNA on the hat doesn’t match the defendant, then that’s a big piece of evidence.”
Esworthy said that in a petition earlier this year, he had the hat strap, which was found in the police department’s evidence room detached from the hat, tested for a DNA profile but there was not enough DNA on it to get a conclusive result.
Because an FBI agent testified that a hair found on the baseball cap did not match a sample of Ray’s hair, the prosecutor doesn’t think DNA testing on the hat would have made a difference.
But Esworthy says that if the DNA profile did not match Ray’s, the difference would be huge.
“That’s unreliable science,” Esworthy said of that 1988 forensic hair testing. “The DNA is so much stronger than hair.”
The Innocence Project at the University of Baltimore School of Law is continuing to work on Ray’s case.
Which States Lack DNA Testing Access Laws?
Understand the Causes:
How False Confessions Happen