Posted Mar 05, 2012 08:47 pm CST
Updated: A man who was 15 years old when a 74-year-old woman was shot to death in 1996 has won the reversal of his capital murder conviction with the help of his mother, who took a job in a lawyer’s office to help him pursue an appeal.
A federal judge last week overturned the conviction of Michael Wayne Hash, giving Virginia six months to retry him or set him free, according to Media General News Service and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The state attorney general has since said he won’t appeal the ruling by U.S. District Judge James C. Turk and Culpeper Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary L. Close, who originally won the conviction against Hash, asked that a special prosecutor be appointed to determine whether he should be retried, reports a subsequent Richmond Times-Dispatch article.
Turk cited both exculpatory evidence withheld by the government and facts that suggest Hash is actually innocent in a written opinion explaining his ruling.
Hash’s parents, Jeff and Pamela Hash, said they always knew he was innocent, and seeing a jury reach the opposite conclusion in 2001 “was like somebody cutting your heart out,” Pamela Hash told Media General.
For the past 12 years, Pamela Hash has been working on her son’s case, initially investigating his conviction file herself and then lining up David B. Hargett to represent him. Because the family didn’t have the money to pay Hargett’s fees, Hash moved to Richmond for a year and a half to work for Hargett, coming home only on weekends to visit her husband, who has a construction manager job in another part of the state.
Meanwhile, “significant evidence,” as the judge puts it, suggests that another man with a criminal record who lived near the victim at the time may have committed the crime.
“There is no basis for a retrial. Mike demonstrated to the district court not only that his trial was unfair but also that he is actually innocent,” attorney Matthew Bosher of Hunton & Williams, who has been representing Hash pro bono, tells Media General. “We expect that any special prosecutor appointed to consider Mike’s case will recognize this and that Mike will be home with his family soon.”
Updated on March 12 to include and accord with Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage subsequent to original post..