Prosecutors on Tuesday disputed allegations that they threatened a key witness in the death-penalty retrial of an alleged drug dealer whose original capital conviction was overturned on accusations of prosecutorial misconduct.
Defense attorneys for Justin Wolfe want a judge to dismiss the renewed charges against their client. Specifically, they say prosecutors in Prince William County engaged in further misconduct this September when they visited their one-time star witness, Owen Barber, in a Virginia prison.
Barber testified against Wolfe a decade ago, admitting he was the triggerman in a murder-for-hire scheme allegedly orchestrated by Wolfe against another drug dealer, Daniel Petrole. Barber’s testimony was instrumental in convicting Wolfe, who landed on death row.
But Barber eventually recanted his testimony, and a federal judge overturned Wolfe’s conviction and death sentence, sending the case back to Prince William County for a retrial.
The jailhouse interview will be the subject of a full hearing Dec. 18 in Manassas. It was mentioned only briefly during a hearing Tuesday in Prince William Circuit Court that dealt with other pretrial matters.
The federal judge who overturned Wolfe’s conviction, U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson, is also interested in the jailhouse interview. He is holding a hearing Thursday in Norfolk on a defense motion to dismiss the retrial on the grounds that prosecutors failed to retry Wolfe in the 120-day time frame that he allotted them when he remanded the case. But in an order Jackson filed Monday, he indicated that he also wants to explore the circumstances surrounding the jailhouse interview.
Earlier coverage of Justin Wolfe's case begins at the link.