Michael Hash Sues Current and Former Public Officials after Wrongful Conviction

Michael Hash, who served nearly 12 years in prison before U.S. District Court Judge James C. Turk granted his release on a Habeas Corpus ruling, has filed a lawsuit in federal district court in which he is seeking damages to be awarded—as reported in The Free Lance-Star of Fredricksburg (here)—“in such amounts as the Court and jury find fair and reasonably supported by the evidence and that will deter such conduct by defendants in the future.” Hash has asked for a jury trial.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are former Culpeper (VA) County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Close; three Culpeper Sheriff Investigators, Scott Jenkins, James Mack, and Bruce Cave; jailer Mary Peters Dwyer, and a convict, Paul Carter, who testified against Hash.

This blog followed the case closely in numerous posts. Hash was convicted in 2001 of the murder of 74-year-old Thelma Scroggins. He was 15 years old at the time of the crime and 19 when accused. He was sentenced to life without parole. However, last February, Judge Turk tossed out the conviction concluding, “the Court is disturbed by the miscarriage of justice that occurred in this case and finds that Hash’s trial is an example of an ‘extreme malfunction’ in the state criminal justice system.”1

As reported in an earlier post on this blog, a Washington Post article (here) summed up Judge Turk’s February ruling:

“In February, Senior U.S. District Judge James Turk ruled that Hash was being wrongly held and that he had satisfied the legal standard for actual innocence. Turk cited problems with the investigation, the prosecution and Hash’s trial counsel, including the acknowledgment late last year by former Culpeper County sheriff Lee Hart and then-Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary Close that Hash had been moved to another jail in order to expose him to a known informant; that investigators had provided crime-scene information to at least one witness and guided answers to their questions; that two witnesses had failed polygraph tests and one had since recanted his testimony; and that there is significant evidence that another suspect may have committed the crime.”

The once-popular Culpeper district attorney Gary Close, who had been elected to his sixth term in office, resigned soon after the ruling.

No physical evidence connected Hash to the crime and five people testified at trial that he was elsewhere during the crime.

In August 2012 Raymond F. Morrough, the Fairfax (VA) commonwealth’s attorney appointed special prosecutor in the case declined to retry Hash. As reported (here), he said, “At this point we just don’t have sufficient evidence to bring anyone to trial. As far as I’m concerned we’re taking a fresh look at this case — this murder, this killing.”

The alleged misconduct in this case will likely be aired in the lawsuit, and a judge or jury will be challenged to put a price on the damage to Michael Hash. As in all wrongful convictions, the rippling impact of damages in the lives of the Hash family, the Scroggins family, and potential victims of a killer who remains unidentified are difficult to estimate.

A few of the earlier posts on the case can be found (here), (here), and (here).

1 Harrington, 131 S. Ct. at 786 (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 332 n.5 (1979)

6 responses to “Michael Hash Sues Current and Former Public Officials after Wrongful Conviction

  1. It is time that these people who have brought about wrongful convictions be held accountable. Until they are there will be no changes and the wrongful convictions will continue.

    They have the power to damage so many peoples lives, and these wrongful convictions tear the fabric of trust the people have in the system designed to protect innocents and punish the guilty.

  2. I was wrongly convicted because I could not afford a lawer.

  3. legalizefreedom333

    I know how he feels. I was kidnapped via cut & pasting of slices of statutes and titles to statutes. Little or ZERO notice of any crimes. Pure and simple KIDNAPPED by the State of Michigan. Brown v MDOC 11=11277 Fed Habeas. Waiting almost 2 full years now.

  4. The rules in Virginia are dramatically tilted in favor of Prosecutors.
    Commonwealth’s Attorneys have a legal duty to seek THE TRUTH, as opposed to a conviction. (as opposed to defense counsel, who has a duty to provide a robust defense, regardless of guilt)
    In practice, Virginia prosecutors only seek convictions, even in cases where they later determine innocence.
    There is virtually NO practical oversight of prosecutors who violate the rules or laws in Virginia.
    Imagine yourself wrongly accused and facing the dread power of the state, with it’s unlimited resources, and rules which favor the prosecution over the defense. Now throw in the fact that prosecutors are rarely if ever punished or held accountable for misconduct, and you can see the desperate need for reform. Most prosecutors stay generally within the rules, but they do so largely due to their own good conscience, because punishment for misconduct is extremely rare. Would you like to trust your life to the good conscience of a lawyer? A government employee lawyer? A government employee lawyer who must stand for election?
    Virginia needs an effective oversight mechanism which will actually punish over zealous prosecutors who step out of the bounds of the law.

  5. Pingback: VA: Exoneree Files Lawsuit Against DA and Others | The Open File

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