UPDATE – MARSHALL IS HOME!
JULY, 2017: After over 33 years of imprisonment for a crime he did not commit, Marshall Hale was released from Graterford Prison into the arms of his loving family. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Conviction Review Unit gave his case a full review and concluded – as we have said for 8 years – Marshall is excluded as having contributed to the rape kit. Marshall is home with his aunt, cousins, and rebuilding his life with his two sons.
Marshall Hale was convicted in 1986 of raping a 14 year-old girl at gunpoint in an abandoned building in North Philadelphia, even though forensic evidence presented at his trial established his innocence. The girl initially described her attacker to police as an African-American male, 30-35 years old, about 6’ tall, weighing approximately 180 pounds, and having a light complexion. Marshall is 5’6” tall, dark skinned, and at the time was 21 and weighed about 145 pounds. After viewing over 100 slides at the Police Administration Building a month after the attack, the girl said that Marshall’s picture “looked like” the man who attacked her. A detective wrote at the time she made a “possible identification.” Two days later, at 1 am, detectives went to the girl’s house with a photo array and asked her to “pick out the same picture you did before.” The victim selected Marshall’s picture.
At the trial, the girl positively and surely identified Marshall as the man who raped her, even though she said he looked “older” the day she was attacked. Technicians from the Philadelphia Police Department testified that the blood type of semen in the rape kit could not be determined, but the girl’s panties and blouse were stained with blood and semen, and that blood typing tests results showed the samples were type “B.” The victim was type “O”, and that Marshall’s blood type was “A.” Even after hearing testimony, in response to a question from the judge, that a person with type A blood could not leave behind something of type B, the jury found Marshall guilty within 3 hours.
On appeal, Marshall’s conviction was upheld. When he asked for DNA testing on the physical evidence, the Commonwealth responded that the samples were not available, believing they had been “destroyed.” Although no testimony was ever taken on that issue, the court denied Marshall’s request.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project sent the lab reports from Marshall’s case to Larry Presley, Director of the Forensic Science program at Arcadia University and former head of the FBI DNA Analysis Unit. Professor Presley not only verified that Marshall could not have left behind the samples on the blouse and panties, but also concluded that Marshall could not have contributed to the semen found in the rape kit. Based upon this evidence the Project, along with co-counsel Patricia McKinney of McKinney and George, filed a petition for Marshall, asking that his case be dismissed or he be granted a new trial.
In May, 2010, when the Project filed the petition, we sent a copy directly to Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams with a letter explaining the case and asking that he authorize an independent investigation. No reply was ever received. In December, 2010, after the case was assigned by Judge Geniece Brinkley, the Commonwealth asked for additional time to have the case reviewed by its own expert. That expert produced a report which echoed what Dr. Presley had concluded. Yet, the case still lingered until Judge Brinkley dismissed the petition as “untimely” in 2014, holding he should have presented this evidence earlier, and even refused his request to search for evidence.
At this point, Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller attorneys joined our team. Led by partner John S. Summers and associate Maureen S. Lawrence, along with former colleague Dina L. Grove, we appealed the matter to the Pennsylvania Superior Court. In a May 2015 argument, John argued the trial court had misapplied the law and misunderstood the significance of the late produced forensic evidence. The Superior Court unanimously reversed the trial court, holding that Mr. Hale’s petition presented viable factual claims concerning his innocence that could have been unknown to him and not previously ascertained through reasonable diligence. The court remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. The team then obtained the District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit’s thorough review and ultimate agreement to release Mr. Hale.
On July 13, 2017, the Honorable Genece E. Brinkley signed an order vacating Mr. Hale’s conviction and sentence. The next day, at the age of 57, Mr. Hale was released from Graterford prison in Philadelphia, having served 33 years for a crime he did not commit.
“My colleagues and I are enormously honored to have played a part in securing Mr. Hale’s release,” stated John Summers, who also is Vice President of the Board of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. “The DA’s Conviction Review Unit should be commended for its review and agreement to Mr. Hale’s release. Enormous credit also goes to Marissa Bluestine and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project who have persistently championed Mr. Hale since the Project’s inception.”
“It has been a privilege to represent Mr. Hale in overturning his wrongful conviction,” stated Maureen Lawrence. “It was deeply moving to watch Mr. Hale walk out of prison and embrace his family after 33 years.”
Marshall is now at home, living with his family and working to regain all he lost over the past 33 years. Welcome home, Marshall!!