Policy: Law

Judge orders release of Virginia man whose death sentence was overturned

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Local,Virginia,Crime,Naomi Jagoda,Law,Death Penalty

A federal judge has ruled that a man whose Prince William County murder-for-hire conviction was overturned should be released and not retried.

Justin Michael Wolfe had been convicted of capital murder in the 2001 slaying of his marijuana supplier and had been sentenced to death.

But in July 2011, a federal judge in Norfolk vacated the conviction and death sentence, ruling that Wolfe was denied his due-process rights when prosecutors withheld information from his lawyers and that prosecutors had used false testimony from a key witness.

In Wednesday's ruling, Judge Raymond Jackson wrote that Wolfe needed to be released because the ruling last year mandated that Wolfe be provided a new trial within 120 days or be set free.

Jackson also barred the government from retrying Wolfe. After Wolfe's conviction was overturned, the original prosecutors in the case had intimidated the key witness in the case who had implicated Wolfe in his original trial but later recanted. Because of the prosecutors' actions, that witness invoked his right to self-incrimination and would not testify in Wolfe's defense in a future trial.

A special prosecutor in the case told the Washington Post that the state plans to appeal Wednesday's ruling.

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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Naomi Jagoda

Staff reporter
The Washington Examiner