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DNA clears record in the District

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The D.C. Attorney General office did a reversal and made a city resident the happiest man inside the Beltway.

U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. was pleased that in D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Richter courtroom's DNA evidence exonerated Kevin Martin, a man who spent 26 years in prison.

Such action in the courtroom notes the fifth time in about five years where federal prosecutors in the D.C. have admitted to judicial errors through DNA.

Kevin Martin was convicted in the killing of Ursula Brown, a Washington, D.C. woman, in 1982. At the time of the arrest, Martin was a 17-year-old PCP addict who eventually pled guilty to a series of similar armed robberies that had taken place just a week earlier. He continued to say he didn't rape and murder Ursula Brown. but prosecutors mentioned an FBI examiner would testify a pubic hair found on Brown’s sneaker was a match to Martin; and considering Martin would face multiple life sentences for the other crimes he admitted to, he accepted an Alford plea (accept the conviction but admits no guilt). He was paroled in 2009. The measure vacated Martin's guilty conviction and declared him an innocent man.

Surrounded by his family and attorneys he said, "I never gave up.”

The Washington Post reported federal prosecutors refused numerous requests to release the names of all defendants whose convictions relied on FBI hair evidence to the public defender’s office, along with the standards for their review or to disclose cases as reviews were completed.

The Justice Department inspector general's office released a news report last week criticizing the DOJ and FBI for not giving a proper and timely notice to defendants in cases affected by problems with hair evidence.

The D.C. Attorney General's office admitted they still didn't have all of the names four years ago. But, for the last 2 1/2 years the city's legal office has reviewed all local convictions where FBI hair matches were involved. Martin’s is the first wrongful conviction uncovered by prosecutors in the District review.

While he may be innocent, it cannot replace the 26 years that he'd been behind bar in federal prison. Someone who has spent any period of time behind bars can get those years back; imagine if you had to spend 26 years behind bars and you know you were innocent of the crime they allege.

D.C. resident and returning citizen Jacob Colby thinks its a terrible thing.

"Those who have been innocently convicted and spent any time behind bars," he said, "are in a very unusual and unfortunate situation. Not only have they been behind bars for a long time, but they have also lost many of the skills that they once possess that could make them viable in the workforce. Even if they are found innocent in the end they still have all those years behind bars and that really does something to a person."

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