Garr Keith Hardin and Jeffrey Dewayne Clark were falsely accused of murdering a woman in the 1990s. The conviction had rested in part on the visual comparison of a single strand of hair that defense attorneys fought to have tested for 18 years. After almost three decades spent in jail, they are finally free.
CBS News reports:
“The struggle for justice has been long and painful for Mr. Hardin and Mr. Clark, who served more than 20 years and whom the Commonwealth twice threatened with the death penalty for a crime they did not commit,” said Seema Saifee, a staff attorney with The Innocence Project. The group is representing Hardin.
The Innocence Project fought for years to have the evidence tested for DNA, and the Kentucky Supreme Court granted the request in 2013. The testing revealed the hair didn’t come from Hardin.
Judge Butler overturned their conviction in 2016, finding it “based on suppositions that we now know to be fundamentally false.”
The saga began in the early morning hours of April 2, 1992, when Rhonda Warford disappeared from Louisville. Three days later, on April 5, 1992, she was found stabbed to death in Meade County, about 50 miles from her home. Her mother told investigators that both men and her daughter had dabbled in satanic practices.
According to the Louisville department assigned Detective Mark Handy, who led the investigation, Hardin admitted sacrificing animals as a part of a Satanic ritual and later decided that he wanted to “do a human.” Later, DNA testing showed that the hair on Warford’s sweatpants didn’t belong to defendants and the blood on Hardin’s handkerchief was his own – as he had always claimed. Hardin previously testified at trial that the blood on the cloth was his own, caused by cutting himself on the glass.
Hardin and Clark spent more than 8,000 days in prison for the crime they didn’t commit.
Both hugged their families and friends. Hardin’s lawyers held his hand above his head like a heavyweight champion celebrating after a long bout. “I hope I have done what’s right,” said Judge Bruce Butler, who granted the men a new trial in 2016 and freed them from jail after finding no credible evidence remained again them. “I know that I’ve done what the law requires,” the judge said.
Lawsuits that Clark and Hardin both filed in U.S. District Court against Meade County and Louisville Metro government, as well as Handy and other detectives, say that this case isn’t the police mistake but the result of police misconduct. “Their convictions rested on fabricated statements they never made and forensic evidence the prosecution wrongly argued Hardin left behind on the victim’s body,” the suits say. “Clark and Hardin’s wrongful convictions were not an accident but rather the result of police misconduct.”
Warford’s murder still remains unsolved but her mother believes the two men are guilty for her daughter’s death.
Photo Credits: Daily Trendsetter