State Will Not Appeal Justin Wolfe Death Penalty Case
Defense will ask courts to let Wolfe out on bail, pending the prosecution's decision to retry.
The Virginia Attorney General has decided not to appeal a federal appeals court's verdict that affirmed the vacation of the sentences and convictions against death row inmate Justin Michael Wolfe.
The state had the option of appealing before the fourth circuit court or to the Supreme Court. Since they decided not to, Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert now has 120 days to decide whether to release or retry Wolfe.
Wolfe is now on his way back to the Manassas jail, according to family members. The next step is for the defense to ask for bail.
"I think we're still trying to digest whether or not this is real," said Terri Steinberg, Wolfe's mother. "We've been waiting for this for 11 years—over 11 years."
"No one should sit in isolation for 11 years," she added.
The Fourth Circuit court ruled in August prosecutors had “inexplicably withheld" evidence that was crucial to Wolfe's defense in the 2001 murder-for-hire trial.
The Chantilly man was convicted and sentenced in 2002 for ordering the murder of his marijuana dealer, Daniel Robert Petrole Jr. of Centreville. The triggerman in the case, Owen Merton Barber IV, testified against Wolfe at trial, but told the Eastern District Court of Virginia in November 2010 that Wolfe was not involved.
The appeals court's decision was in agreement with U.S. District Court Judge Raymond A. Jackson, who ruled in July 2011 that Ebert and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard Conway had resisted giving information to the defense.
“Essentially, in an effort to ensure that no defense would be ‘fabricated,’ Ebert and Conway’s actions served to deprive Wolfe of any substantive defense in a case where is his life would rest on the jury’s verdict,” Jackson wrote.
A call to Paul Ebert was not immediately returned.
Steinberg said she was pleased at the prospect of possibly getting her son home, but that justice had not been served by incarcerating him.
"Really, my heart breaks for the Petrole family ... for 11 years, they did not know the truth," Steinberg said.
Previous Patch stories about the case:
- Aug. 17, 2012—Court Critical of Prosecutors in Wolfe Case
- May 17, 2012—Fourth Circuit Considers Justin Wolfe Death Row Case
- March 19, 2012—Former Officials Back Defense in Justin Wolfe Capital Murder Case
- Dec. 2. 2011—Justin Wolfe Moved Back to Death Row
- Sep. 8, 2011—Justin Wolfe Moved Off Death Row
- Aug. 31, 2011—All Convictions Against Wolfe Are Vacated
- July 20, 2011—Despite Vacated Conviction, Death Row Inmate May Still Serve Decades
- July 13, 2011—Judge: Wolfe Trial Filled With Hearsay, Speculation
- July 12, 2011—Wolfe Appeal Granted, Conviction Vacated
- Nov. 22, 2010—Defense Poses Alternate Theories in Petrole Murder
- Nov. 8, 2010—Triggerman: Death Row Inmate is Innocent