Innocence Project Petitions for Review of Wrongful Conviction in Rape Case
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. A status date was set for February 2, 2011.