D.C. Sued for Wrongfully Jailing Man for 26 Years

     WASHINGTON (CN) – A Washington, D.C., man who spent 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit is suing the city for reparations.
     In 1984 Kevin M. Martin pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges in connection with the death of Ursula Brown on November 1, 1982. The conviction was in part a result of a police interview with William Davidson, who police charged with murder in the case, according to the complaint.
     On the night of the murder a car bumped Brown’s car as she drove down 295 in southeast Washington. When she got out to speak with the person driving the other car, she was abducted, taken across the city, raped and shot as she tried to escape, according to the complaint.
     Davidson claimed he was just a lookout while the crime took place, and that Williams was the one who shot Brown in the head. A pistol police recovered at the scene was registered to Davidson’s father, according to the complaint.
     Martin maintained his innocence throughout the proceedings, though he eventually entered an Alford plea to avoid more serious charges, according to the complaint. The prosecution planned to use hair found on Brown’s sneakers and matched to Martin to prove he was at the scene during the crime, according to a transcript from his plea hearing and quoted in the complaint.
     “All I want to say, I never took part in it,” Martin said at the hearing. “That’s all. I was never around.”
     Martin claimed he was babysitting his sister when the killing occurred. He was sentenced to 35 years to life in 1984 on the manslaughter charges stemming from Brown’s murder as well as on unrelated robbery charges, according to the complaint.
     A parole board denied Martin parole in 2007 because he maintained his innocence. He eventually went on parole in 2009 after 26 years in prison, according to the complaint.
     In 2013 a U.S. Attorney’s Office review of murder convictions in the district turned up new evidence related to Brown’s rape and murder, including swabs taken from her body that ruled out Martin as a DNA contributor, according to the complaint.
     Instead, the swabs matched Davidson’s DNA, whose cooperation with police was instrumental in arresting and convicting Martin, according to the complaint.
     “Thirty years ago, Kevin Martin was unjustly branded a rapist and murderer,” U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen said in a 2014 press release after the U.S. Attorney’s Office discovered the DNA evidence. “Although Mr. Martin had been justly convicted of a series of armed robberies, the system failed us all when he was wrongfully convicted of a brutal rape and murder and, as a result, spent far too long in prison. DNA analysis has now provided evidence that a serial rapist – not Mr. Martin – committed this outrageous attack. Mr. Martin has steadfastly declared his innocence for three decades, and today we joined him in asking the court to clear his name.”
     Davidson was sentenced to up to 70 years in prison in 1984 after pleading guilty to first degree murder, armed robbery and rape charges, according to court documents.
     A judge declared Martin’s innocence in relation to Brown’s murder in July 2014 and now seeks relief under the D.C. Unjust Imprisonment Act.
     A spokesperson for the Office of the Attorney General said it was aware of the suit but declined to comment on the pending litigation.
     Martin’s attorney, Bernard S. Grimm told Courthouse News that his client’s original plea on the basis of hair analysis was “voodoo” and an “absolute lie.”
     Grimm believes a hefty award, level of which is uncapped, is due Martin.
     “It’s the trauma of day to day being in prison for something you didn’t do,” Grimm said in an interview. “It’s waking up every morning saying ‘is this nightmare ever going to end.'”

%d bloggers like this: