"Judge hears accusations of prosecutorial misconduct in Va. death-penalty case," is the AP report, via the Washington Post.
No one was more instrumental in putting then-20-year-old Justin Wolfe on death row than his one-time associate, Owen Barber IV.
And no one was more crucial a decade later in getting Justin Wolfe off death row than Barber, who eventually recanted the testimony against Wolfe that was integral to Wolfe’s capital murder conviction.
Now lawyers on both sides are trying to figure out what story Barber will tell next, and a judge must decide whether prosecutors were improperly trying to sway Barber back to their side during a jailhouse visit in September.
A Prince William County judge heard evidence Tuesday on defense lawyers’ motion to toss out the new murder charges against Wolfe. The lawyers claim prosecutors threatened Barber with the death penalty if he continued to disavow his original testimony. The judge will hear further arguments later this week.
Now, with Wolfe’s retrial scheduled for Jan. 2, attention is focused on a two-hour jailhouse visit to Barber by Prince William County prosecutors Paul Ebert and Richard Conway. The judge heard a nearly two-hour recording of the visit Tuesday.
In the meeting, prosecutors make it clear to Barber that recanting his trial testimony violates the terms of his plea bargain, and they could bring capital charges against Barber. It’s also clear from the recording that Barber had no idea that his recantation could potentially put him on death row.
But prosecutors and the defense interpret the meeting differently. The defense argues the visit is a thinly veiled threat to Barber that he must either testify the way the government wants or face execution.
Inside NoVa (Northern Virginia) posts, "Defense attorneys play jailhouse recording in Wolfe case," by Amanda Stewart.
A meeting Prince William county prosecutors had with Owen Barber, a key witness in the Justin Wolfe capital murder case, at a state prison in September was again at the center of pretrial hearings in the case Tuesday.
Wolfe’s defense attorneys played a recording of that visit during a hearing in Prince William Circuit Court to persuade Judge Mary Grace O’Brien that prosecutors acted improperly.
Defense attorneys argued that Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard Conway and Prince William police Detective Sam Newsome’s jailhouse interview with Barber in September amounted to prosecutorial misconduct and so the charges against Wolfe should be dismissed.
Days after that meeting, Ebert recused himself and his office, and Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh was appointed to serve as special prosecutor in the case.
More hearings in the case will be heard Friday.
Earlier coverage of Justin Wolfe's case begins at the link.