Man Exonerated of D.C. Rape, Murder After Serving 26 Years in Prison

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    A man was declared innocent Monday of a 1982 rape and slaying in D.C. that put him in prison for 25 years.

    Kevin Martin, now 50, was issued a certificate of "actual innocence" after a more than 12-year effort to clear his name.

    U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen said Martin was "unjustly branded" when he faced charges in the rape and murder of 19-year-old Ursula Brown.

    Although he admitted to being involved in a series of armed robberies, Martin repeatedly denied killing Brown.

    "The system failed us all when he was wrongfully convicted of a brutal rape and murder and, as a result, spent far too long in prison," said Machen.

    In 1984, Martin, fearing conviction on greater charges, entered an Alford plea -- not admitting wrongdoing but agreeing the government has enough evidence to secure a conviction.

    DNA evidence revealed that Brown was the victim of a serial rapist, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

    Early Nov. 1, 1982, Brown was driving on Route 295 when her car was bumped from behind, according to government evidence. When she got out to confront the other driver, she was abducted and taken to southwest D.C. She was raped, then while trying to escape, she was shot and stabbed. Her body was dumped in a dumpster in Southeast.

    Brown's murder was among a series of crimes committed in late October and November of 1982 in which motorists were intentionally bumped and then attacked or robbed after stopping their cars.

    A total of eight victims – seven women and one man – were robbed or assaulted in separate incidents in span of two months. Brown was the only victim to be killed.

    After police arrested Martin, William Davidson and a third man, Martin admitted to his involvement in three Nov. 8 bump-and-rob crimes with Davidson, but Davidson pleaded guilty to charges including felony rape, murder and armed robbery -- saying he acted as a lookout while Martin raped Brown -- and was sentenced to 65 years. The FBI also made a positive hair fiber association between the victim and Martin, who was sentenced to 35 years to life, which was reduced to 20 to 60 years in 2006 after Martin's defense filed a motion to withdraw the guilty plea in 2001. He was immediately eligible for parole but was not paroled until 2009.

    In 2009, the exoneration of another man convicted of rape and murder prompted the U.S. attorney's office to review other cases in which the FBI made positive hair fiber associations. Though the hair sample from Martin's case couldn't be found, DNA testing that was not available in 1982 excluded to Martin and pointed to Davidson as the rapist, according to the U.S. attorney's office.