Acquitted Death Row Inmate has New DNA Evidence Against Him in 1990 Rape-Murder Case

June 30, 2022 Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes, Violent Crimes

Robert Earles Hayes, 58, was acquitted of the murder of Pamela Albertson in 1990. After an issue with the DNA evidence, the Supreme Court reversed his original conviction and Hayes received his aquattial in the second trial.

However 25 years later, in an effort to attempt to get Hayes acquitted from another murder case, the Innocence Project of New York has retested the DNA evidence for the Albertson murder. They assumed it would solidify the proof that Hayes was innocent. Yet now that it is confirmed that it was Hayes’ DNA on Albertson’s body, questions have arisen about the validity of his acquittal.

Hayes’ defense team claim he is still innocent, and he should be up for parole for the second murder in 2025. The prosecution is attempting to use the newest information to prevent his release on parole. We will cover the details of the case, along with the newest DNA evidence and the responses.

What was the Case?

Hayes was working at a horse racing track near Fort Lauderdale in 1990. Pamela Albertson, 32, was one of his coworkers who worked as a groomer. Albertson had supposedly expressed her concerns about Hayes prior to the murder, claiming that he was violent. Hayes had been seen with Albertson shortly before her death.

Albertson was raped and murdered by strangulation in 1990, and the original evidence from the scene indicated that it was Hayes’ DNA inside of Albertson. Hayes was initially convicted of Albertson’s murder and was sent to death row.

At the time of the trial, DNA evidence was still new technology. One of the issues with the hairs found on Albertson’s body. She was clutching hair that came from an unidentified white person. Since Hayes is a black man, his defense team pointed toward another race track employee that may have killed Albertson instead.  and after several years the Florida Supreme Court claimed that the method was scientifically unreliable. The Florida Supreme Court overturned the conviction after he was acquitted in the 1997 retrial.

Immediately after the not guilty verdict was received, Hayes told reporters, “They were getting ready to execute an innocent man.” Several years later Hayes’ case was even featured in a 2002 TV movie called “The Exonerated.”

Two years later, in 2004, Hayes pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the death of another woman. Leslie Dickenson’s death was initially reported as a suicide, as Hayes had supposedly found her in 1987 in a burning dorm room hanging from a rope. However, she had multiple stab wounds on her body. Hayes worked with Dickenson at a different race track in Vernon Downs, and after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter he was issued a 15-45-year sentence. He is currently up for parole in 2025.

The Innocence Project’s Attempt to Help

Fast forward to the year 2020, when the Innocence Project of New York got involved with the case. Supporters believed that Hayes was once again innocent, and the Innocence Project wanted to try and get Hayes exonerated for the second time.

Their goal was to retest the DNA evidence from the Albertson murder, to further prove that Hayes was not guilty, and to try and get him a retrial for the manslaughter case of Dickenson. The Innocence Project chose a California lab to conduct the test on the DNA evidence. The results concluded that the hair she had in her hand was her own. On top of that, the rest of the DNA found on her body did come from Hayes.

“The DNA results from the hair support the theory that the victim’s own hair was clutched in her hand during the fatal attack,” the prosecution wrote.

In a press release made by the Broward County State Attorney’s Office, Harold Pryor provided the following statement:

“Our Conviction Review Unit is dedicated to seeking the truth and reviewing plausible claims of innocence from people who have exhausted all of their rights to appeal and have nowhere left to turn. We go in with an open mind, no preconceptions, and follow the evidence wherever it goes. In this case, the new DNA evidence implicates Robert Earl Hayes in a 1990 homicide that jurors found him not guilty of committing. We believe it is just as relevant to speak the truth about what happened in this case and try to hold Mr. Hayes accountable – to the extent possible – as it is to exonerate those who are innocent. We will speak to the Parole Board in New York to ensure that Mr. Hayes is not released from prison and we will do this in the interests of justice and to help safeguard all communities.”

New Retrial Out of Question

Due to the U.S. Constitution’s rule against double jeopardy, Hayes can no longer be retried for the murder of Albertson. However, Pryor and the other prosecutors involved have said they wish to prevent Hayes’ parole from the newest information.

Hayes’ defense attorney, Barbara Heyer, argued that Hayes had admitted to having sex with Albertson the night she was killed. For that reason, it makes perfect sense that his DNA will be found on her body. She also argued that the other DNA was inconclusive.

When asked about the details of the 1990 case, Miami defense attorney David Weinstein told CBS that he found it all “unusual.”

“More often than not, current DNA testing exonerates individuals who had been convicted in the past,” Weinstein said. “If [the jury] had the test results from today, the chance of acquittal would have been less likely.”

Responses to Newest Information

The newest information has caused mixed reviews across the board. Gregory Flynn, the Pompano Beach police detective who oversaw the investigation of the Albertson murder, says he feels vindicated by the new evidence.

“It was like a punch to the gut,” Flynn said. “I knew to the core of my being that he was responsible.”

From the viewpoint of former prosecutor Ken Padowitz, he said that it’s better for 100 guilty individuals to be set free rather than one innocent person to end up in prison. “Usually we don’t have the investigations go on after an acquittal,” Padowitz said. “It’s a rare situation to see guilt confirmed after the fact because there’s usually no evidence forthcoming after an acquittal.”

In addition, Padowitz highlighted that the trial was a ‘snapshot in time.’ This is considering that DNA evidence was still a new concept, and that even though the jury found Hayes guilty during the first trial, the reasonable doubt caused by the evidence analyzed with an unproven method caused the Supreme Court to go to retrial.

Donna Dickenson-Helps, Leslie Dickenson’s sister gave the following comment regarding her sibling’s death: “One of my biggest regrets is he took her from us and she never got to know both of her nieces and her great-nieces and nephews…But I mostly still miss her and cry when I think of her.”

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Although the new DNA evidence has been released, it is unsure whether or not it will affect Hayes. Since he cannot be tried again for the murder of Albertson, the only option the prosecution can push for is to try to prevent Hayes from getting out on his parole in 2025. The case of Hayes just shows how far DNA evidence has come.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime, make it your top priority to reach out to a skilled Tallahassee homicide and murder defense attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm understand the importance of strategizing a strong defense for your case and will work to ensure your freedom. For a free consultation, call (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message today.

 Written by Karissa Key

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