Sunday, April 28, 2002

England looks at an old diner.

Court of Appeal reconsiders murder case 40 years after execution of accused

LONDON - The case of a man who was hanged for murder 40 years ago went to the Court of Appeal on Monday as his family and supporters try to prove he was unjustly convicted.

James Hanratty, 25, went to the gallows April 4, 1962, for the murder of scientist Michael Gregsten, who was shot dead, and the attempted murder of his mistress, Valerie Storie.

Prosecutors said Hanratty surprised the lovers during a tryst in a cornfield in southern England he forced them to drive to an area where they were shot.

Since Hanratty's execution, his family and supporters have fought to prove that, though a petty crook, he was not a killer.

Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, and two other judges in the Court of Appeal are re-examining Hanratty's conviction.

Opening the appeal, Hanratty lawyer Michael Mansfield said, "the material that provided the foundation for the conviction that led to the execution was in fact fatally flawed. "It was fatally flawed in the sense that there was extensive and inexcusable non-disclosure," Mansfield said.

"In the light of material that has now become available — and which to a large measure was available at the time," Mansfield said, Storie's identification of Hanratty "cannot necessarily be regarded as reliable."

Hanratty claimed he was 250 miles (400 km) from the scene at a bed and breakfast hotel in north Wales at the time of the attack.

The landlady backed up his claim, and in the years after his execution, numerous witnesses came forward to support the story.