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Special prosecutor gets more time to decide whether to retry Michael Hash in 1996 slaying
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BY DONNIE JOHNSTON
Michael Hash was hoping for an early birthday present, but he didn't get it.
Hash, who turns 31 on April 28, was hoping that special prosecutor Ray Morrogh would announce at Monday's case review hearing that he does not plan to retry the former Culpeper man for the 1996 murder of 74-year-old Thelma Scroggins.
Instead, Morrogh asked for and was granted a continuance until June 18.
"We still have some [DNA] materials at the state lab," Morrogh, who is Fairfax County's commonwealth's attorney, told substitute Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins.
"We're making progress, but we're not there yet," he added.
Hash, who was charged with Scroggins' murder in May of 2000 and convicted the following February, had that conviction set aside on Feb. 28. U.S. District Judge James C. Turk issued a scathing opinion criticizing the investigation and prosecution tactics used to convict Hash (then 19), and gave the state six months to decide whether to retry him.
Speaking publicly for the first time since his release, Hash said after Monday's hearing that while he was disappointed that Morrogh had not made a decision on a retrial, he understood that the legal process might take time.
"I'm hopeful it won't take much longer," Hash said. "I'd like to get it settled and get on with my life."
Regarding his upcoming birthday, Hash said, "As you get older, you don't pay that much attention to birthdays, but this one will be a little more special."
Of his newfound freedom, Hash said, "Life is good, but I take it slow. Everything is a new experience. I take it one day at a time."
Even if Morrogh decides not to retry the initial case, Hash could still be charged at a later date if a new investigation points to him as a suspect. A conviction that is set aside does not fall under the double-jeopardy statute.
Turk's decision led to the resignation of Culpeper Commonwealth's Attorney Gary Close, whom the federal judge accused of failing to disclose a deal with a jailhouse snitch whose testimony helped convict Hash.
It has also put new Sheriff Scott Jenkins, who was one of the lead investigators on the case, on the hot seat.
Hash, who was 15 when Scroggins was shot and killed at her Lignum home, was one of three teenagers arrested and tried for the crime. Jason Kloby was found not guilty and Eric Weakley, who turned state's evidence, received 15 years in a plea agreement.
Weakley is now free and his attorneys are working to clear his name.
Sheriff Jenkins has reopened the investigation, while Morrogh has had Fairfax County police start searching for witnesses or other evidence pertaining to the crime.