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Marshall Hale

Other Philadelphia CIU Exonerations
In 1984, 24-year-old Marshall Hale was convicted of raping a 14-year-old girl in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and sentenced to 23½ to 47 years in prison, even though the prosecution had biological evidence excluding him as the rapist.

When the evidence of his exclusion was discovered in 2010, the Philadelphia County District Attorney’s office continued to fight to preserve Hale’s conviction for another seven years. Finally, on July 13, 2017, through the efforts of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, Hale was exonerated. By that time, he had spent more than 33 years in custody for a crime he did not commit.

The crime occurred on November 11, 1983, when a man with a gun forced a 14-year-old girl walking to school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania into an abandoned building. He forced her to disrobe and raped her. Before he left, he wiped his genitals with her blouse.

The girl, who was identified as N.A., was examined at a hospital and a rape kit was prepared. Police collected her clothing, including her underwear, blouse, and knee socks.

N.A., who was Hispanic, described her attacker as a black man with a light complexion. She said that he was about 30 to 35 years old, weighed 190 pounds, and stood about 5 feet, 11 inches tall.

Several weeks later, N.A. met with police and viewed photos and slides of men who had been previously arrested. She pointed out a photograph of 24-year-old Marshall Hale, who had a prior conviction for sexual assault. Her identification was less than positive. The detective wrote in his notes that N.A. “feels he looks like male who raped her.”

N.A. then revised her description of her attacker. She now said he was 5 feet, 5 inches to 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighed 165 pounds, and was in his early twenties. That description better resembled Hale than the description she gave right after the crime, although Hale had a dark complexion.

A few days later, N.A. was shown a photographic lineup that included the same photograph of Hale that she had previously seen. She picked the photograph of Hale as her attacker. On January 2, 1984, Hale was arrested and charged with rape, involuntary deviant sexual assault, assault, robbery, possession of a weapon, and making terroristic threats.

Hale went to trial in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on September 24, 1984. N.A. testified and identified him as her attacker.

Maryann Scafidi, a crime lab serologist, testified that based on her testing, N.A. had blood type O and Hale had blood type A. Scafidi testified that blood and semen were found on N.A.’s blouse, underwear, and in the rape kit. Blood was also found on her socks.

Scafidi said the samples taken from the victim’s vulva contained blood and semen, but the test results were inconclusive—a blood type could not be identified. Scafidi said that the victim’s blouse and underwear contained blood and semen that was type B. Scafidi was never asked about the source of the semen found in the rape kit, the underwear, or the blouse—only the blood.

Scafidi testified that a person with blood type A—Hale’s blood type—could not be the source of the blood found on the blouse and underwear. However, Scafidi was not asked if Hale could have been the source of the semen in the rape kit, blouse, or underwear. Scafidi did say that a very small amount of type A blood was found on N.A.’s socks.

In closing argument, the prosecution acknowledged that the blood evidence was “confusing” because the results only showed type B while N.A. was type O and Hale was type A. Nevertheless, the prosecutor argued, the evidence showed that Hale “is not excluded, he is included in the group of possible people who could have committed this offense.”

On September 26, 1984, the jury convicted Hale of rape, involuntary deviant sexual assault, and possession of a weapon. He was sentenced to 23½ to 47 years in prison.

Hale then headed down a tortuous legal path in his attempt to overturn his convictions—for many years acting without a lawyer. In 1987, the Pennsylvania Superior Court upheld his convictions, and in 1988, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied him permission to appeal that ruling.

Later that year, Hale filed a post-conviction petition alleging that his attorney had failed to provide an adequate legal defense. The trial court denied that petition without a hearing, the appeals court upheld the denial, and the state Supreme Court refused to allow any further appeal.

In 1993, Hale, still acting without a lawyer, filed a motion seeking DNA testing of the physical evidence. That request too was denied without a hearing after the prosecution claimed the evidence had been destroyed.

In February 1998, Hale filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. That petition was ultimately dismissed, although while it was pending the prosecution turned over 25 pages of laboratory reports. There was no statement, summary, or explanation of the reports. These documents, although they contained the key proving his innocence, would not be deciphered for another 12 years.

In September 1998, Hale filed a third state court petition for post-conviction relief claiming that the prosecution had concealed evidence of his innocence and was withholding lab results from him. He attached the 25 pages of lab reports he had obtained in his federal habeas lawsuit, but his petition was again denied. The state court judge could not understand the lab reports and dismissed the petition, ruling erroneously that the lab reports had been introduced at the trial. Hale didn’t understand the lab reports either, although he suspected they were critical.

Had those lab reports been deciphered, they would have showed that at 3 p.m. on the last day of Hale’s trial, the crime lab was still performing tests on the evidence in the case. The reports showed that Hale was identified as a “secretor,” which meant that his blood type could be discerned not just in his blood, but also in all his body fluids, such as semen, sweat, and saliva. Since he was a secretor, his blood type would have been identifiable in the semen found on N.A.’s clothing.

In fact, because only type B was found, Hale was excluded as the rapist before his trial concluded. But those test results had not been disclosed.

In 2001, Hale filed his fourth petition for post-conviction relief, citing a variety of claims, including inadequate legal defense and the state’s obstruction of his appeals. That petition was dismissed after the court held it was filed too late.

Hale went back to federal court in 2003, filing another petition for a writ of habeas corpus. The court dismissed it as being untimely filed.

In 2006, Hale returned to state court, filing his fifth petition for post-conviction relief. He contended that crime analyst Scafidi’s testimony that a small amount of type A blood was found on N.A.’s socks was false. That petition was dismissed as being filed too late.

Hale tried again in federal court in 2007, but the court dismissed this petition for a writ of habeas corpus as untimely.

Hale hadn’t just sought relief in the courts. In 1998, he requested help from the Innocence Project in New York. Because the prosecution said the evidence had been destroyed, however, no help was forthcoming. Similarly, a request in 2000 to Centurion Ministries, a nonprofit organization that investigates wrongful convictions, also was turned down for the same reason.

In May of 2009, Hale contacted the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which had opened its doors just one month earlier. After reviewing his case, the Pennsylvania Innocence Project sent the laboratory reports to Lawrence Presley, director of forensic sciences at Arcadia University and the former director of the FBI’s DNA Analysis Unit.

In May 2010, Presley reported that the reports showed that Hale “is excluded as the contributor to the semen found on the physical evidence.” The Pennsylvania Innocence Project then filed an amended petition for post-conviction relief requesting DNA testing of the evidence.

In 2011, Michael Garvey Jr., the director of the Philadelphia Police Department’s Forensic Science Bureau, also examined the lab reports at the request of Hale’s lawyers. He also concluded that Hale was excluded as the source of the semen. Moreover, Garvey reported that Scafidi’s testimony that testing of the semen and blood from the victim’s vulva was “inconclusive” was in fact wrong. Garvey said it was in fact conclusive, and that only blood type B was found—again, Hale was excluded.

The prosecution opposed the petition, however, arguing that it was time-barred and that no physical evidence existed. In 2013, the trial court ordered the prosecution to conduct a “thorough search” for the evidence. In June 2014, the prosecution reported that the evidence did not exist. The court requested a letter advising it of the official results of the search, but no such letter was ever submitted.

On September 17, 2014, the trial court dismissed Hale’s petition—not on the merits, but on the ground that it was filed too late. Hale, the court held, did not qualify for any exceptions to the requirement that post-conviction petitions be filed within one year after conviction.

Marissa Bluestine, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, and her co-counsel—John Summers, Dina Grove, and Maureen Lawrence of the law firm of Hangley Aronchick Segal Pudlin & Schiller—filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court. In September 2016, the court overturned the dismissal of the petition.

The court ordered that a hearing be held on the petition. It further ordered the prosecution to certify in writing what evidence remained available for testing and the extent of the prosecution’s efforts to locate the evidence.

In February 2017, Hale’s legal team took his case to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Conviction Review Unit. On July 13, 2017, the prosecution agreed that Hale’s convictions should be vacated and moved to dismiss the charges. The motion was granted and Hale was released.

In June 2019, the city of Philadelphia agreed to pay Hale $3 million to compensate him for his wrongful conviction.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/20/2017
Last Updated: 1/9/2020
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:Gun Possession or Sale
Reported Crime Date:1983
Sentence:23 1/2 to 47 years
Age at the date of reported crime:24
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No