After 12 years in prison, a capital murder charge against Michael Wayne Hash, the man once convicted of killing Thelma Scroggins, has been dropped.
Monday a special prosecutor said he simply does not have enough evidence to prosecute Hash for the death of Scroggins. The hearing in Culpeper Circuit Court lasted just a minute Monday morning, but it did put an end to more than 12 years of waiting for Michael Hash and his family.
Hash was tried and found guilty of killing 74-year-old Thelma Scroggins in 2001. He was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison, even though Culpeper prosecutors had no physical evidence linking him to the crime scene.
Prosecutors claimed Hash and two others shot Scroggins four times in her Lignum home in 1996. He was convicted based off the testimony of three witnesses including one of the co-defendants. Hash was 15 years old at the time.
In February, U.S. District Judge James C. Turk vacated the capital murder conviction for 30-year-old Hash, citing an inadequate defense and misconduct by the prosecutor and police. He gave special prosecutor, Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh, six months to decide if Hash would be retried.
Morrogh says he has interviewed more than 40 people and they continue to search for evidence.
"At this point we just don't have sufficient evidence to bring anyone to trial," he stated. "As far as I'm concerned we're taking a fresh look at this case - this murder, this killing."
Hash stated, "It validates what we've said all along, that I'm innocent and there's never been any credible evidence against me."
Hash was one of three originally charged. Eric Weakley - also convicted in the slaying - testified against Hash, putting him behind bars. Weakley has repudiated his testimony implicating Hash and has recently apologized.
Hash stated, "He's human. He made a mistake. I have no problem forgiving him for that."
Outside the courtroom Monday, there were hugs and tears from family members and supporters who have spent the past 12 years working to see this moment become a reality.
Michael's mother Pam Hash said, "There's not enough words to say how happy I am. I've waited so long, so long. It's so great to have him back home."
Hash says he is not ruling out a lawsuit against Culpeper County. When asked what is next in his life, Hash said he would like to travel and possibly get into law.
Meanwhile, prosecutors are starting from scratch in the case and say they have not developed any new suspects. Morrogh says he has been in touch with the Scroggins family through all of this and they just want someone held accountable.
Statement from Sheriff Scott H. Jenkins regarding judicial proceedings on Aug. 20, 2012
Today's action by the special prosecutor, Raymond Morrogh, was part of the judicial process. By taking a few media reports at face value, today, many citizens believed that this investigation was finished, or, that Mr. Hash can't be prosecuted after the six-month deadline given by Judge James Turk. That is not the case. This is an active murder investigation into the death of Lignum resident, Thelma Scroggins, in 1996.
From the beginning of this process, I have taken issue with Judge Turk's 65-page opinion. Unfortunately, it is impossible to discuss the opinion without discussing details of the investigation. My silence has not been an effort to avoid this subject, or hide anything from the public, but rather a necessity given the circumstances.
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. In 2001, Hash had two defense attorneys certified to represent defendants on murder charges. Those defense attorneys were provided with hours of video-recorded interviews, all reports and statements and the jury heard direct testimony from witnesses and co-defendants. The trial was conducted without my presence or that of other investigators, except during a very brief point when we were questioned.
It is my belief that the media has solely focused on the opinions of one man–Judge Turk–and has taken his opinion at face value, despite my inability to comment on this case. This is unfortunate because Judge Turk did not have the benefit of hearing directly from the prosecutor of the case, the defense attorneys, the investigators or witnesses. I would respectfully ask that the media educate citizens on the actual process of the civil proceeding overseen by Judge Turk.
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.
I appreciate all of the support that I've been shown in the past few months. I'm confident that the citizens of Culpeper will give this case time to be resolved and they will wait for the other side of the story.
Our focus now, and always has been, to seek justice for Thelma Scroggins and we will continue to assist Fairfax authorities as needed.