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Kim Hairston

Other Ohio Murder Exonerations
Shortly after 6 a.m. on July 19, 1992, 41-year-old Arthur Worrix, the manager of the Dairy Mart store, in Columbus, Ohio, was fatally shot during a robbery.

Police determined Worrix was shot once in the head sometime between 6:11 a.m. and 6:24 a.m. because a security camera pointed at the cash register showed two men in the store—one white and one black—and a black arm attempting to open the cash register at 6:18 a.m.

The security camera did not operate continuously—only for 10 seconds at a time every three minutes. It had been installed so that it focused on the cash register because of concerns about employee theft.

Worrix was found on the floor behind the counter and the safe was open. An audit later determined that about $280 was missing from the safe.

Detectives found dozens of finger and palm prints. Two palm prints were matched to 32-year-old Kim Hairston, who lived a short distance from the store and was friendly with two former employees. Hairston was arrested and charged with aggravated murder and aggravated robbery in January 1993 after one of those former workers, Lisa Dunkle, told police that prior to the shooting, Hairston had repeatedly asked her about the store’s security measures and procedures and on one occasion threatened to kill her like he killed Worrix.

Hairston went to trial in Franklin County Court of Common Pleas in October 1993. The state sought the death penalty. Dunkle had been fired from the store about a month before the murder. She testified that she and her roommate, Angie Smith, were friendly with Hairston because he came into the store frequently and that after she was fired, Hairston began asking about how cash was stored and the store’s security.

Dunkle told the jury that after the murder, Hairston sometimes said in a joking manner, “I’ll kill you like I killed your manager.” Dunkle said that except for one occasion, he always would follow up by saying, “You know I didn’t do that.”

She said that once, they got into a fight and he choked her. “I went to the pay phone, and he told me if I called the police, he would hurt me like he hurt that guy.”

Dunkle and Smith viewed the surveillance video and both testified that they did not recognize the two men depicted on the tape, although Dunkle said she thought the black man on the tape may have looked like a friend of Hairston’s.

Another store employee, Jeri Hilt, testified that one of her duties was to clean the store after it closed up after midnight. She said she cleaned the glass and chrome portions of the meat case the night before the shooting. A detective testified that of about 40 finger and palm prints found in the store, two palm prints found on the meat case belonged to Hairston.

The prosecution argued to the jury that because the store had been cleaned before it closed on the night before the shooting, the presence of Hairston’s prints was evidence that he had been in the store shortly after it opened.

On October 15, 1993, after deliberating for three days, the jury convicted Hairston of aggravated murder and aggravated robbery.

The jury returned three weeks later, on November 8, 1993, to hear evidence before deliberating on whether Hairston should be sentenced to death. The defense called Naomi Bell, who had only been contacted by Hairston’s defense after Hairston had been found guilty.

Bell testified that she worked in the Dairy Mart at the time the murder occurred and that she knew Hairston because he was a regular customer. Bell testified that on either July 17 or 18—one or two days prior to the murder—she bought a car from Hairston. She gave him $180 in cash as a down payment and the receipt was dated July 18, 1993—one day before Worrix was killed. Bell said that during their conversation, Hairston was standing next to the meat case.

Bell also told the jury that she had closed the store the night before the shooting and that she had been assigned to clean the store because Hilt had done such a poor job of cleaning. Bell said that on the day Worrix was found dead, Hairston came to her house to discuss getting the remaining money for the car and that he acted in a normal manner.

The defense also showed a store video from July 17—two days prior to the murder—showing Hairston in the store holding car keys. Bell also testified that prior to Hairston’s trial, she had been interviewed by a prosecutor and related that Hairston had been in the store at least three times in the two days prior to the murder.

The defense argued to the jury that Bell’s testimony showed that Hairston’s prints could have been left prior to the murder.

The jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict on imposing the death penalty. Days later, when the case was recalled for sentencing, Hairston leapt from his chair and loudly protested the verdict. “I didn’t kill that man, hear me? I didn’t kill that man,” Hairston told Worrix’s family. Then, he pointed an accusing finger at several jurors who returned to the courtroom to watch the proceedings.

“I don’t know how you found me guilty with no evidence,” Hairston declared. “That’s on your conscience.”

The judge then sentenced Hairston to life in prison with no eligibility for parole until after he had served 30 years.

The defense moved for a new trial on the grounds that the prosecution had failed to disclose to the defense that Bell had told police that Hairston had been in the store repeatedly in the days just before the murder, and that the prosecution’s closing argument during the guilt phase had been false and improper. The judge denied the motion.

In December 1994, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed the convictions and ordered a new trial. Bell’s testimony, the court held, was newly discovered evidence. The court said, “Assuming that the prosecution knew, but did not disclose, the nature of Bell’s testimony, the failure to disclose” was a violation of the prosecution’s duty to disclose exculpatory evidence. “Further, even assuming that the prosecution disclosed the substance of Bell’s testimony prior to trial, the state’s closing argument during the guilt phase, in which the prosecution asserted that there was no evidence defendant was in the store…before the shooting, would constitute serious misconduct by the prosecution, warranting a new trial.”

Hairston went to trial a second time in September 1995. On September 15, 1995, Dunkle was called by the prosecution and again testified that Hairston had asked her about security measures at the store prior to the murder and that he had threatened to kill her like he killed Worrix.

However, after she testified, she told the prosecution that her testimony was a lie—that she had once been romantically involved with Hairston, but that after they fought, she had moved to Virginia and was angry with him.

The prosecution immediately requested that the charges be dismissed. The motion was granted and Hairston was released. He later sought compensation from the state of Ohio and was granted $30,000.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/27/2015
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1992
Age at the date of reported crime:32
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No