After a three-day trial in September 1984, Marshall Hale was convicted of rape in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and sentenced to 23½ to 47 years in prison.

During the trial, the only evidence the jury heard linking Mr. Hale to the crime was the victim’s cross-racial identification of Mr. Hale.  The jury also heard inconclusive forensic evidence which the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania argued could not exclude Mr. Hale as the rapist.

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 that, at the time of Mr. Hale’s trial, the Commonwealth conducted a test that concluded he was a “secretor” of his blood type antigens. This evidence demonstrated that he could not have been the rapist because these antigens were not found in the rape kit and other evidence, 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, Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller attorneys John S. Summers and Maureen S. Lawrence, along with former colleague Dina L. 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 13, 2017, the Honorable Genece E. Brinkley signed an order vacating Mr. Hale’s conviction and sentence. The next day, at the age of 57, Mr. Hale was released from Graterford prison in Philadelphia, having served 33 years for a crime he did not commit.

“My colleagues and I are enormously honored to have played a part in securing Mr. Hale’s release,” stated John Summers, who also is Vice President of the Board of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project.  “The DA’s Conviction Review Unit should be commended for its review and agreement to Mr. Hale’s release.  Enormous credit also goes to Marissa Bluestine and the Pennsylvania Innocence Project who have persistently championed Mr. Hale since the Project’s inception.”

“It has been a privilege to represent Mr. Hale in overturning his wrongful conviction,” stated Maureen Lawrence.  “It was deeply moving to watch Mr. Hale walk out of prison and embrace his family after 33 years.”

John, Maureen and Dina have written a fuller discussion of Mr. Hale’s case, noting 10 Insights that highlight parallels between his and other cases. Click the link below to read their U.S. Law Week article.

Read the article