In 2004, Virginia lawmakers passed a measure intended to allow people to challenge wrongful convictions based on evidence of innocence. So far, however, only one person has had a murder conviction overturned under that law, and his mother was in the state capitol yesterday lobbying for an expansion of the law that would help others.
Former Navy SEAL trainee Dustin Turner was convicted of 1995 murder he has always said he didn’t commit, and his conviction was tossed out last year based on the confession of a fellow Navy SEAL. The state is appealing his case, and the Virginia Court of Appeals heard oral arguments this morning. But yesterday Turner’s mother, Linda Summit, was thinking of others like her son.
The law is too narrow to be effective, she said, pointing to examples of people like
Arthur Lee Whitfield
, who was exonerated through DNA testing and eventually pardoned, but not eligible for a writ of actual innocence under the 2004 law because it only applies to prisoners.
“At least we have that avenue,” Summit told the Virginian-Pilot. “Why I'm here today is, other people don't have that avenue. I'm here advocating for them,"
A bill before the Virginia House of Delegates would expand access to the writ of actual innocence to people who have been pardoned or paroled, would make them eligible for state compensation and restore their civil rights – including the right to vote, serve on juries and run for office.
Read the full story here
. (Virginian-Pilot, 1/26/10)