A man jailed for the murder of a hospital porter bludgeoned to death in an east Belfast flat has launched a legal bid to have his appeal against conviction reopened.
Mark Kincaid is to seek exceptional leave for a fresh hearing as he bids to overturn a guilty verdict returned against him for killing David Hamilton in 2004.
The 34-year-old life prisoner’s campaign to clear his name has received the support of former First Minister Peter Robinson.
Kincaid is set to argue that flawed trial directions on the issue of joint enterprise renders his conviction unsafe.
His lawyers are set to focus on a landmark Supreme Court verdict that the law which allowed people to be convicted of murder even if they did not inflict the fatal blow has been wrongly applied for more than 30 years.
Mr Hamilton, 44, was battered about the head with blunt objects at his flat in the Ballybeen estate.
He lay dying for hours following what the trial judge described as “an exceptionally brutal and prolonged attack”.
No motive for the killing was ever established.
Kincaid was one of three men found guilty of the murder, and ordered to serve at least 16 years in prison.
He has continued to protest his innocence, despite a fingerprint on a piece of broken glass linking him to the scene.
During the trial he admitted being at the victim’s flat and having lied to police about his presence.
He claimed to have panicked and tried to distance himself from the scene.
In 2009 the Court of Appeal rejected his first bid to have the murder conviction quashed.
But some continue to believe the guilty verdict is unsafe.
Last year, Mr Robinson wrote to Kincaid pledging his support and saying he believes the prisoner is innocent.
Now lawyers will seek to persuade senior judges that the case should be re-examined.
Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has agreed to list the application for a further hearing in September.
Outside court Kincaid’s lawyer, Gerard McNamara, confirmed the focus will be on the Supreme Court ruling on the issue of joint enterprise.
He stressed that the conviction had been based on adverse inferences drawn from a single strand of disputed evidence.
Mr McNamara said: “The issues identified in this application raise real concerns about this conviction, and it is felt that the conviction is undermined by a full appraisal of it and in particular the joint enterprise basis.”