CULPEPER, Va. (AP/ABC7) - A Virginia man whose 2001 capital murder conviction and life sentence was overturned by a federal judge won't face retrial.
According to media reports, a judge in Culpeper County on Monday approved a special prosecutor's motion to drop a murder charge against Michael Wayne Hash.
"We won! We won!," cheered Hash's mother, Pam Hash.
Prosecutor Raymond Morrogh of Fairfax County said the move means Hash will remain free, although an investigation is continuing. Morrogh said about 40 people have been interviewed as part of the investigation. He said there is insufficient evidence to charge Hash in the 1996 slaying of 74-year-old.
"Truly at this point, I didn't have evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Michael Hash did this murder," Morrough explained. "We're taking a fresh look at this case, this murder, this killing...we're starting from scratch and will continue until we solve it."
Michael Hash was one of three teenage suspects in the case. In March, he was freed after serving 12 years in prison. A federal judge tossed out the conviction, citing coerced and false testimony from co-defendant Eric Weakley.
Weakley later recanted, saying details of the murder were given to him by Culpeper authorities. One of those deputies, now a Culpeper County sheriff, has denied any wrongdoing.
Monday night, Sheriff Scott H. Jenkins issued a statement, which said, in part:
"What some may forget is that Mr. Hash's fate was determined by a sheriff and commonwealth attorney's review, a hearing by grand jury, a trial jury, an appeals court, and then the Virginia Supreme Court..There is much more to the story than Judge Turk's opinion, but I won't defend my actions at this time and jeopardize an open murder investigation. This won't be the first time citizens in Culpeper will learn, much later down the road, that what I have been saying was true all along."
Michael is now free to travel out of the state. A civil lawsuit is not a priority, he added, but he is thinking about the future.
"Maybe go into the law profession is an option. I definitely would have a leg up on it," Michael said.
His mother added, "There's not enough words to say how happy I am. I've waited so long. It's so great to see him back home, and I said I wasn't going to cry today."