A federal judge threw out the murder conviction of a Virginia death row prisoner this week after the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law revealed that prosecutors had suppressed evidence pointing to innocence.
Justin Wolfe was convicted of murder for hire and had been on death row since 2002.
The judge ruled that the failure of the prosecution to turn over evidence that could have been used by the defendant in his defense resulted in an unfair trial for Wolfe.
The Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law first became involved in the case last year after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the district court hadn’t properly considered Wolfe’s claim of innocence. A dozen students in the law school’s yearlong clinic reviewed police reports and interview records and located and interviewed many of the witnesses identified in the reports.. In his ruling, the judge calls attention to prosecutors Paul Ebert and Richard Conway for depriving the jury of critical information.
The judge wrote, “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 his life would rest on the jury’s verdict. The Court finds these actions not only unconstitutional in regards to due process, but abhorrent to judicial process.”
If the Virginia Attorney General appeals Monday’s ruling, Wolfe could remain in prison for another year while the federal appeals court considers the appeal.