After 12 years behind bars, Michael Hash's handcuffs are removed as Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding, second from right, looks on.
With a special prosecutor still weighing whether to retry him for murder, Michael Hash offered only brief remarks upon his release. "I'm glad to get home," he said, calling his experience a "long, drawn-out ordeal" and expressing hope that "the remaining part won't take as long as the first part of it."
Courteney Stuartclick to view more photos
Less than a month after a federal judge tossed the capital murder conviction of Michael Wayne Hash, who served a dozen years in prison for a crime it now seems he didn't commit, a judge in Culpeper Circuit Court took less than five minutes to decide Hash should go home.
On March 14, Judge Jay T. Swett ordered Hash released on a $10,000 unsecured bond, paving the way for the now 30-year-old man to spend his first night at home with family since he was a teenager.
Hash was 15 years old when his 74-year-old neighbor Thelma Scroggins was shot four times in the head. It was four years before Hash was arrested, and during that time, Hash's attorneys assert, prosecutors and investigators behaved improperly, and possibly illegally.
Among the alleged actions Roanoke-based federal judge James Turk called "outrageous misconduct" in his February 28 ruling: coaching witnesses, hiding exculpatory materials, and what Albemarle County Sheriff Chip Harding uncovered: that officials secretly arranged to place Hash in a Charlottesville cell block for one night with a "professional snitch"— then lied about it under oath. Culpeper Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Close resigned March 12 as the allegations against him became public.
Following Thursday's brief hearing, Hash was unhandcuffed and unshackled outside the Culpeper County Courthouse in preparation for his ride back to Charlottesville, where he collected his belongings from the jail and arrived outside to an emotional welcome from friends and family.
"I always knew it would happen," said his mother Pamela Hash. "I'm overwhelmed."
While Hash is spending his first night with family, the special prosecutor appointed to the case is reviewing the evidence and must decide whether to retry him or free him for good.
Hash's next court date is April 16.