A D.C. man convicted in a 1982 rape and murder has been told he has been exonerated by DNA. Kevin Martin spent more than 26 years in prison on a claim by prosecutors his hair was found at the scene of the crime. But newly tested evidence says he wasn't there.
It is the fifth case since 2009 in which FBI hair analysis has been found to be wrong.
Martin will tell you he was no angel. As a teenager, he was part of a group of young men who deliberately caused accidents so they could rob the female drivers they hit.
Some of the women were kidnapped and raped. One was murdered.
But Martin says he is no killer and he had nothing to do with the murder of Ursula Brown.
In fact, Martin said as much in a letter sent to a D.C. judge asking for help. It was May of 2007 and Martin was still locked up.
In it, he writes, "I'm totally innocent ... the government had a shaky case that I probably would beat with proper counsel ... Can I please have my freedom?”
But that wouldn't happen for a few more years.
Government prosecutors were still maintaining Martin’s pubic hair was found at the scene of the crime.
"My name was dragged through the mud,” Martin said in an interview from California where he now lives. “There was a lot of mental anguish I went through and it was painful."
We talked to him via Skype.
"When (my lawyer) told me this hair fiber they supposedly found at the crime scene is enough to connect you to the crime, and I'm like, ‘Man, what hair? I wasn't there!’”
On November 1, 1982, the body of 19-year-old Ursula Brown was found between a school yard and an apartment building just off of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Southwest D.C.
She had been shot once in the head, slashed and raped, She was partially clothed and some of her belongings were scattered around, including Nike tennis shoes which the prosecutors said would be the key to the case.
On those tennis shoes, the FBI says they found pubic hair. It is the only evidence that could possibly link Martin to the case.
In 1984, prosecutor Donnie Allison told a judge, "Mr. Martin's pubic hair -- was found by the FBI to have been found on the sneaker of the decedent, Ursula Brown.”
But in a filing years later in an attempt to free Martin, attorney Bernie Grimm wrote, "That statement is unequivocally untrue in two respects (1) no one ever concluded that it was Mr. Martin's pubic hair and (2) there is no evidence that a hair was found on a sneaker and that sneaker belonged to the decedent.”
In fact, Grimm pointed out the FBI simply said the hair was “like” Martin’s hair.
Now, new testing on an evidence rape kit has determined Martin’s DNA was not found at the scene. It was information he received Wednesday in a phone call from a lawyer with The Innocence Project.
Martin told us, "She said, ‘You’re cleared. You’re cleared.’ I was like, ‘Stop playing. Stop playing. For real?’ And then it really hit me and she said, ‘Kevin I'm not playing. It came back, it's not you.’ I said I know that and then I started crying because it was overwhelming. I’m normally an under control person, but I couldn't control that one.”
Martin says he has been having great difficulty finding a good paying job, but he is now hoping his nightmare is over.
We reached out to prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office who initiated the testing, but they declined to comment.
Martin went to prison after taking an Alford plea. He maintained his innocence while admitting the government had enough evidence to convict him.
But Martin said the advice he received from his lawyer was totally inadequate. He was just a teenager and had no idea what he was up against.