John Hemphill

Years in prison:
5
Year of crime:
1995
Year conviction was overturned:
2001

John Hemphill was convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend Sarah Cannon who was found dead in her house in Port Glasgow. Cannon had been shot. Hemphill denied the charges and said that he arrived on the scene after Cannon was shot, and cradeled her in his arms as she was dying. At the trial, the prosecution relied heavily on blood spots on Hemphill’s clothes and evidence from a pathologist which stated that the victim would have stopped breathing within seconds of being shot in the head. They also relied on the testimony of a witness who gave evidence that contradicted Hemphill’s alibi and placed him at the scene issuing threats to a woman. On appeal, Hemphill relied primarily on two grounds. First, evidence was introduced to suggest that subsequent to the trial the witness who placed Hemphill at the scene admitted to others that the evidence he gave was untrue, and experts examining the witness found him to be in the borderline mentally handicapped range of intellectual functioning that meant his statements could be unreliable. Second, Hemphill had inadequate assistance of defence counsel which meant important and significant witnesses, forensic and medical evidence were not produced (e.g. evidence suggesting the blood marks could have resulted from coughing and the victim may not have died instantly). The court found that there was a substantial failure on the part of those instructed by the defence to consider and investigate the real basis of a material part of the Crown case. The conviction was quashed and a retrial granted. Hemphill was found not guilty at the retrial.

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  • Offence: Murder
  • Jurisdiction: Scotland
  • County: Inverclyde 
  • Ethnicity: White
  • Gender: M
  • Years in prison: 5
  • Offence convicted of: Murder
  • Year of crime: 1995
  • Year of initial conviction: 1995
  • Year conviction was overturned: 2001
  • Age when imprisoned: 30
  • CCRC Referral: N
  • Tried with others: N
  • Link to full case: https://www.bailii.org/scot/cases/ScotHC/2001/21.html
  • Type of fresh evidence at appeal: Evidence relating to the reliability of witness testimony
  • Compensation: No
  • Crown argued case at CofA: Yes
  • Retrial: Yes
  • Previous appeals: Unknown