Hangley Aronchick Shareholders John Summers and Maureen Lawrence and former colleague Dina Grove were honored with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project’s Edward Ohlbaum Volunteer Award on May 9, 2018. This award is presented annually to firms or individuals who have represented the convicted innocent and worked tirelessly to secure their freedom. This year, the Project decided unanimously to recognize the dedication, zeal, and compassion with which these three attorneys worked to exonerate Marshall Hale, who served 33 years in prison after a wrongful conviction.
In 1984, Marshall Hale was convicted of rape in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and sentenced to up to 47 years in prison. Decades later, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project reviewed his case with a forensic expert and submitted a petition for post-conviction relief based on its discovery of evidence that he could not have been the rapist, based on blood testing, but these test results were not turned over to him at trial. The petition also requested that the Commonwealth search for evidence from Mr. Hale’s case for DNA testing, which was not available at the time of his trial. The Commonwealth Court dismissed his petition as untimely, holding that he should have presented this evidence earlier, and refused his request to search for evidence.
At this point, Summers, Lawrence, and Grove joined the case, appealing the matter to the Superior Court. In a May 2015 trial, the team argued that 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 14, 2017, Mr. Hale was released from Graterford prison in Philadelphia, having served 33 years for a crime he did not commit.
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