George Hayden Murder Conviction Overturned

A former eastern carolina police chief serving life behind bars for a murder conviction could walk out of prison a free man, after an appeals court overturned the conviction.

The North Carolina Court of Appeals says the prosecution did not show enough evidence that George Hayden had the means or opportunity to kill Marine Sgt. William Miller.

Prosecutors say the murder was an ambush triggered by a love triangle involving Miller's wife at the time. William Morgan, who was Hayden's attorney during the trial, says this is something he's been waiting for since the day the verdict was read.

"I've been practicing law 42 years and it was probably the most disappointing jury verdict I had to sit with but I told George that day: George I think it's going to be reversed and it makes me very happy that it has been reversed," said Morgan.

"I've already made contact with the Attorney General's Office today. We're requesting the Attorney General's Office seek review by the North Carolina Supreme Court of the decision of the North Carolina Court of Appeals," said Onslow County District Attorney Ernie Lee.

The state Supreme Court is not required by law to hear this case since it was a unanimous vote by the Court of Appeals. They have 20 days to make a decision, or Hayden could go free.

The Onslow County district attorney says he is asking that the Attorney General's Office appeal a court ruling that overturns a former police chief's murder conviction.

The state Court of Appeals threw out last year's first-degree murder conviction of George Hayden for the 1972 shooting death of a Marine.

The court ruled unamiously that said state prosecutors hadn't shown enough evidence that George Hayden had the opportunity or means to kill Sgt. William Miller. Hayden is serving a life sentence for what prosecutors have said was an ambush triggered by a love triangle involving Miller's wife at the time.

Hayden could be released in 20 days unless state prosecutors ask the North Carolina Supreme Court to hear the case.

Hayden was fired as police chief in Belhaven in March 2008 in an unrelated matter, and prior to that was chief in Cape Carteret. He was arrested for the Miller murder six months after being let go in Belhaven.

Hayden's attorney says she is happy for her client, who has consistently said he was innocent.

Two other people charged in Miller's death had charges dropped after Hayden's conviction. Prosecutors said there wasn't enough evidence to proceed with trial for Vickie Babbitt and Rodger Gill.

Babbitt was married to Miller when he was killed and then married Hayden.

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