RICHMAND, Virginia (WRIC) – Virginia Attorney General Jason Miares will have the opportunity to apply for the abolition of state support for the innocence of one of the men serving life imprisonment, despite the fact that he was acquitted in the murder of two Waverley police officers decades ago.
Under his predecessor Mark Herring, Virginia made a brief statement about Terence Richardson’s attempt to prove his innocence in the 1998 murder of Officer Allen W. Gibson. On February 7, Miares’ office sent letter to the Virginia Court of Appeal the division of the state changed its position in this matter.
On Friday, the court decided to allow Miares’ office to file a new application, postponing oral arguments in the case scheduled for February 22. It is unclear when a new hearing will be scheduled.
“However, given the importance of speeding up this issue, the parties are invited to submit their respective applications earlier than the deadlines indicated here, and, indeed, as soon as possible so that the Court can immediately postpone oral disputes in this case,” the convict wrote in the order.
Richardson and Feron Claiborne pleaded guilty to lesser charges of killing Gibson in 1999, saying fears of the death penalty forced them to try to avoid trial in state court. Prosecutors moved the case to federal court, where a judge sentenced them to life in prison after a jury found them guilty of drug crimes but not guilty of Gibson’s murder.
Jarrett Adams, a lawyer for Richardson and Claiborne, has filed a motion of innocence on behalf of Richardson to overturn his conviction for manslaughter. Herring’s office prepared and filed 78 pages supporting Richardson’s assertion of innocence.
On Friday, Adams said the court ruling did not change the fact that Virginia supported Richardson’s efforts to change administration.
“I have always said this, I would like the court to have all the information they need on the case. I respect the court’s decision. They understand that the situation is unique, ”Adams said.
Adams claims that the case is politicized by the prosecutor’s office. Miares, a Republican, defeated Herring, a Democrat who ran for a third term in office, in the elections of 2021.
The Court of Appeals gave the Attorney General’s Office a deadline of Feb. 28 to file an additional response to Richardson’s motion to plead not guilty. Adams will then have 30 days to respond to Miares ’official message.
After the hearing, the court could grant Richardson’s motion or deny his motion. Although such a decision will not release the men immediately, Adams believes the court’s approval will eventually lead to their freedom.
The court may also schedule an evidence hearing, as requested by the Herring Office, to uncover additional facts in the case.
The men claim they did not kill Gibson with his own gun more than two decades ago in a wooded area behind a residential complex and questions arose in their case.
Gibson told a police officer who arrived at the scene after he was shot that the gun “just exploded” while fighting two men, one of whom had dreadlocks. Richardson and Claiborne had no dreadlocks at the time of their arrest, and counsel argues that there are other suspects who may be guilty.
Fearing a potential death sentence after being charged with Gibson’s death, Richardson and Claiborne said they had pleaded guilty to lesser charges in 1999 to avoid trial in Sussex County Court.
Richardson received five years in prison for manslaughter, and Claiborne pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting after committing the fact.
In 2001, the federal prosecutor’s office prosecuted drug trafficking charges in connection with Gibson’s death. A jury in federal court found the men guilty of drug crimes but acquitted them of murder. However, the judge in this case decided to use their statements in the state court to sentence them to life imprisonment.
Claiborne has pleaded guilty to wrongdoing in a state court, so his charges are not subject to a guilty plea. Miares’ office claims that the state no longer adheres to the arguments of Herring and Adams.
“Even if the federal acquittals were a proper part of the amended motion in this case, the applicant’s acquittal of the federal jury has nothing to do with his conviction for manslaughter,” wrote Brandon Wrobleski, Miares’s special assistant investigator. in a letter dated 7 February.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office did not respond to 8News’ request for an interview or comment on the case.