The Winston-Salem’s Journal’s Michael Hewlett has done some excellent reporting on John Robert Hayes‘ case. On Thursday Hewlett reported that the Wake Forest Innocence and Justice Clinic filed another appeal on Hayes’ behalf.
Hewlett’s reporting reveals more improper behavior on the part of the Forsyth County D.A.’s Office in the 80s and 90s. Look closely at John Robert Hayes’ case and you will see the similarities with Darryl Hunt and Kalvin Michael Smith’s wrongful convictions.
John Robert Hayes is not a name that many people in Winston are familiar with. Unlike Darryl Hunt and Kalvin Michael Smith before him, the wrongful conviction of John Robert Hayes has not captured Winston’s imagination.
A year ago, when an assistant football coach at Wake Forest gave information to an opposing coach (Wakeyleaks) it sparked outrage and debate.
Perhaps John Robert Hayes’ case needs a catchy name. How about the Forsyth County Three? As in one innocent Black man convicted (Darryl Hunt) in the 80s/90s might be a mistake. Two wrongful convictions (Darryl Hunt + Kalvin Michael Smith) shows a problem. Three wrongful convictions (Darryl Hunt, Kalvin Michael Smith, & John Robert Hayes) demonstrates institutional corruption in the WSPD and Forsyth County D.A.’s Office in the 1980s and 1990s.
Let’s face it, the Forsyth County D. A.’s Office in the 80s/90s was something of a wrongful conviction mill. Here was their formula: ignore prime suspects, arrest an African American from East Winston (any will do), ignore evidence of their innocence, withhold important evidence from the defense and proceed to judicially lynch them. Then vigorously fight their appeals. When the courts reveal evidence of wrongdoing, get the Attorney General to fight the appeals for you.(Former Forsyth County D.A. Tom Keith successfully kept Darryl Hunt in jail for nearly a decade after DNA evidence proved his innocence!)
Prosecutors kept a pile of evidence (1,000 pages of documents, 17 audio recordings, photographs and a crime scene video-according to Hewlett) from Hayes’ attorney. All that evidence would have cast doubt on both the physical evidence (shell casings) and the eyewitness testimony that led to his conviction.
Hayes’ double murder trial lasted only two days. Due to the shenanigans of Tom Keith’s D.A. Office, the verdict was never in doubt. The jury took just 30 minutes to convict him.
John Robert Hayes has always maintained his innocence. For nearly 25 years now Hayes has been trying to clear his name. Hayes had ineffective counsel at his original trial. Hayes is now in the capable hands of Mark Rabil and the Wake Forest Innocence and Justice Clinic.
But they are fighting an uphill battle. Some person or person killed two men as they came out of the Deuce-Deuce (an underground drink house located in East Winston) on July 25, 1993. But the evidence doesn’t point to Hayes. Read the legal brief that the Journal was kind enough to publish and see for yourself.
After you read the brief consider forming a group to raise awareness of John Robert Hayes’ innocence. Darryl Hunt’s supporters rallied around Hunt for over twenty years. The Silk Plant Forest Truth Committee worked for over 10 years to secure Kalvin Michael Smith’s freedom (Smith is free but has yet to be exonerated).
It’s time that the community came to John Robert Hayes’ defense. After all, public pressure played a key role in securing the release of both Darryl Hunt and Kalvin Michael Smith.
While the Wake Forest Innocence and Justice Clinic works in the courts to overturn Hayes’ wrongful conviction the rest of us need to raise awareness of this miscarriage of justice and demand serious reforms within the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office.
Below is an excerpt from the legal brief filed on John Robert Hayes’ behalf. I urge everyone to read the full document.
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FOURTH CIRCUIT INFORMAL INFORMAL BRIEF FOR HABEAS SECTION 2254 CASE
No. 17-7441, John R. Hayes, III v. Mark Carver
No. 17-7441, John R. Hayes, III v. Mark Carver
The problem with the prosecution’s false narrative was that the State had in its files physical evidence, the location of two shell casings from a 9mm gun found on the porch of the house where all this started. The existence and location of these two shell casings demonstrate that Mss. Jeter and Geter did not tell the jury the truth about what they claimed to have seen.
The State’s story also left out that its corroborating eyewitness originally described the shooter as a black male with his hair in “dreadlocks,” “plats” or “uncombed,” whereas Mr. Hayes had a short Afro, and as being 5’5” tall whereas Mr.
Hayes was 6’ tall. The State’s version of events also made it seem that there were no witnesses who saw other men shooting at the two young men who were killed, when in fact there were eight or ten such witnesses as to other shooters who had motives to shoot the two victims. Perhaps the most egregious strategy by the prosecution, one clearly designed to promote one version of events, is that the State made no mention to the 1994 jury that another young man was wounded, but survived, that morning in 1993, and that the State had evidence that another man, not Mr. Hayes, shot that young man. This third shooting victim was shot just before Mr. Hayes exited the drink house, before this other young man was shot in the foot from behind. It is no wonder that Mr. Hayes was convicted in just thirty minutes.