Local law clinic believe DNA testing can free a man convicted of murder 37 years ago
A local law clinic is stepping into a decades old murder case with the goal of getting a soldier out of prison. They believe current DNA testing will free him.
Clifford Hubbard was convicted of murder and attempted rape 37 years ago.
The Hawaii Innocence Project based at the University of Hawaii at Manoa's law school, believes Hubbard was wrongfully convicted. The legal team says there was a lack of evidence because a piece of hair and a written statement were the evidence that sent Hubbard to jail for life.
"Those tests aren't accurate and those are the only two things that convicted Hubbard. A witness that didn't show who told six different stories and a hair they claim, matched one of the defendants found in the barracks," Kenneth Lawson, Hawaii Innocence Project co-director, said.
Court documents say a soldier found a dead teenage boy inside a bunker at Schofield Barracks on Oahu in 1982. Investigators had a few suspects but Hubbard was ultimately convicted. Now, HIP volunteer attorneys asked a federal judge in Hawaii to retest hair and other evidence from the crime scene.
"Any evidence found at the crime scene that would implicate maybe someone else or at least show if Hubbard had been participating in this offense, you'd expect his DNA to be there," Lawson said.
Experts also say microscopic hair analysis in the 1980s when DNA testing was still a new field of study is not accurate.
"There was relatively little quality control over the materials that were used, there weren't strong standards or guidelines for interpreting in the material," David Haymer, professor, department of cell and molecular biology, John A. Burns School of Medicine, UH Manoa, said. "The morphological hair analysis has been shown to just be very deficient. Very inadequate for reaching conclusions."
Haymer hopes developing technology can help those who are innocent.
"It's very exciting that there is that technology to validate what people claim, that people who are in jail inappropriately," he said.
The legal team does not know if there is still physical evidence stored in the case, but if what is left is destroyed, the group hopes to bring Hubbard back to Oahu because he's at a federal prison in Florida. Then they will petition the court and argue the lack of accuracy with the old hair tests.