Hair Analysis Proves Innocence of D.C. Man


Nearly eight months after the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) announced its partnership with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Justice to review microscopic hair analysis cases, a Washington, D.C., man has been cleared by DNA after the hair analysis used to convict him was found to be wrong.


Kevin Martin was convicted of the 1982 rape and murder of Ursula Brown based largely on the claim that his hair was found at the scene of the crime. He spent more than 26 years behind bars before newly tested evidence proved his innocence.


FOX5- Washington, D.C., reported that in a May 2007 letter to a D.C. judge, Martin maintained his innocence and said he wouldn’t have been convicted if it weren’t for his ineffective assistance of counsel. At that point, prosecutors still believed his hair was found at the crime scene.


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.”


Reflecting back to the investigation almost three decades ago, Martin said, “When (my lawyer) told me this hair fiber they supposedly found at the crime scene is enough to connect you to the crime, and I’m like, ‘Man, what hair? I wasn’t there!’ ”


Brown’s partially clothed body was discovered between a school yard and an apartment building in southwest D.C. She had been shot in the head, slashed and raped. Some of her belongings were found near the scene. A pair of sneakers, which the prosecutor said belonged to the victim, was also found. Those sneakers became key to the case; at trial, the prosecution said that the FBI found one of Martin’s pubic hairs on one of the shoes.


Years later, Martin’s attorney, Bernie Grimm, filed a claim that the prosecution’s claim was false because no one ever concluded that it was actually Martin’s pubic hair; the FBI simply stated that the hair looked like Martin’s. Also, it was never proven that the sneaker actually belonged to the victim.


New testing on a rape kit finally confirmed Martin’s innocence when his DNA was excluded from results. He received the news on Wednesday. Martin told the news station that his lawyer called to give him the good news. “She said, ‘You’re cleared. You’re cleared.’ I was like, ‘Stop playing. Stop playing. For real?’ And then it really hit me and she said, ‘Kevin I’m not playing. It came back, it’s not you.’ I said, ‘I know that,’ and then I started crying because it was overwhelming. I’m normally an under control person, but I couldn’t control that one.”


Martin’s is the fifth case since 2009 in which FBI hair analysis has been found to be wrong. Donald Gates, Kirk Odom, Santae Tribble and Cleveland Wright were also wrongly convicted based on false FBI hair analysis.


The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project assisted in the case:


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