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Former Officials Back Defense in Justin Wolfe Capital Murder Case

About 35 former prosecutors, law enforcement officers and judges are calling on the state of Virginia to drop its appeals case against Wolfe after a capital murder charge against him was vacated in July 2011.

About 35 former prosecutors, law enforcement officers and judges are calling on the state of Virginia to drop its appeals case to have a capital murder conviction against Justin Michael Wolfe reinstated, according to a Virginia Lawyer's Weekly blog post.

Wolfe, of Chantilly, has been on death row since 2002 after he was convicted and sentenced in Prince William County for ordering the murder of his marijuana dealer, Daniel Robert Petrole Jr. at his home in Bristow, Va. The prosecution's key witness, triggerman Owen Merton Barber lV testified against Wolfe at trial, but told the Eastern District Court of Virginia in November 2010 .

U.S. District Court Judge Raymond A. Jackson , including the murder-for-hire charge, in July of 2011 on the grounds that that would have been favorable to Wolfe's defense.

The state is appealing the ruling to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to have the conviction and death sentence against Wolfe reinstated. A hearing is set for May 17.

But a recent friend-of-the-court brief (amici brief) published by a group of former officials says prosecutors suppressed evidence that would have impeached Barber's testimony in court, including an original testimony by Barber in which he admitted to investigating officers that he acted alone and that police presented him with an informal deal to avoid the death penalty by testifying against Wolfe.

Robyn M Johnson March 20, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Is Wolfe still in jail?
Erin Gibson (Editor) March 20, 2012 at 12:46 PM
Hi Robyn, Yes, he is still in jail. An appeal and potential re-trial are anticipated. Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert has told other media outlets that he likely would put Wolfe on trial again. There is a hearing on May 17 so we will have an update then, if not sooner. Thanks.
Doug Brown March 20, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Is Ebert a distraction? "Longtime Culpeper County Commonwealth’s Attorney Gary L. Close has resigned his post effective today amid a growing public storm surrounding a federal judge’s recent reversal of his 2001 capital murder conviction against Michael Wayne Hash. In a letter hand-delivered Monday to the Star-Exponent, Close, 55, said his office is larger than any one man, and that because of the controversy, “I am now a distraction to the very important business of law enforcement in Culpeper County.” http://www2.starexponent.com/news/2012/mar/13/amid-growing-hash-controversy-close-resigns-ar-1760891/
Erin Gibson (Editor) March 20, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Interesting point there, Doug. Ebert told the judge at the triggerman's (Barber) sentencing that Wolfe very likely would not have been convicted without Barber’s testimony. But Barber – who has perjured himself at some point in the case by affirming contradicting stories – probably would not be considered a credible witness. The judge wrote in his decision to vacate the charges against Wolfe that, "The commonwealth cannot be entitled to benefit from their deliberate ignorance of and/or reckless disregard for the falsities in Barber’s testimony.” Looks like the prosecution will have to approach the case differently should they win a retrial, considering their key witness is no longer credible. One would ask, does the state even have a case?
Bob March 20, 2012 at 06:11 PM
http://www.facebook.com/freejustinwolfe Sign up to Free Justin Wolfe on Facebook.
Doug Brown March 21, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Erin, Even if the state manages to conjure up another case against Wolfe, what good is it if it's argued by the same Prosecutor? The District Court found that Ebert "lacked credibility" i.e., he lied on a matter of fact. If Ebert is so certain of Wolfe's guilt then he should resign, so that a new prosecutor can review the case and proceed with the re-trial, barring that, a re-trial will see a good defense attorney put Ebert and the detectives on trial rather than Wolfe. Come to think of it, given that Ebert not only lied but then seeked the death penalty, a good prosecutor might put Ebert and the detectives on trial rather than Wolfe.
Erin Gibson (Editor) March 21, 2012 at 07:07 PM
I am just baffled as to why the state would agree to spend tax payers money on pursuing this case, which appears to have been tainted with deals on part of law enforcement, false testimony, withheld evidence by prosecutors, etc.
Doug Brown March 21, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Erin, Playing offense is sometimes the best defense, especially if one doesn't have a defense to put on the field. Any way you look at it the taxpayer is going to be paying for this. Everything now is posturing to try to influence what exactly the costs will be in monetary terms and the integrity of our justice system.
unknown March 26, 2012 at 03:16 AM
I believe Cuccinelli has the final call on this. After getting burned with his wasteful climate-gate suit, he may be reticent to pursue this.
andrew kiser March 27, 2012 at 01:11 AM
it kind of scares me that somebody can be put on death row on just the words of somebody else, not just anybody but the guy who actually killed him. and the prosecution witheld things that could have possibly been the diffrence in him being found innocent really blows my mind. maybe they should be put on trial for murder.
Laterrior August 08, 2012 at 09:37 AM
I'm pissed, why would this kid put his life on the line for money he owe? Any real dealer would pay the money to keep the supply coming. It's clear everybody owed this man money but he didn't order them to die. Thisan admits he killed him, he asked Justin for money to get away.

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