"Fed. appeals court allows capital murder retrial of Wolfe; lower court had ordered him freed," is the AP report, via the Washington Post.
A federal appeals court will allow Virginia to pursue a capital murder case against an alleged drug kingpin from northern Virginia.
In a 2-1 ruling, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond overturned a federal judge in Norfolk who had ordered a halt to the prosecution of Justin Wolfe and his immediate release. The judge said misconduct by prosecutors in Prince William County made it impossible for Wolfe to get a fair trial.
But a majority on the appellate court disagreed. They ruled that a new trial can be done fairly. A dissenting judge said the misconduct was so bad that freeing Wolfe was the only proper outcome.
Wolfe was sent to death row in 2002 for a drug-related murder, but his original conviction and sentence were overturned.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruling in Wolfe v. Clarke is available in Adobe .pdf format.
AP has expanded its original coverage. It's available as, "4th Circuit allows capital retrial of alleged drug kingpin," via the Daily Record.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson said misconduct by prosecutors in Prince William County made it impossible for Wolfe to get a fair trial.
But a majority on the appellate court disagreed. Judges Robert Bruce King and Allyson Kay Duncan ruled that a new trial can be done fairly. They wrote that Jackson “fashioned an overbroad remedy and thereby abused (his) discretion by precluding the Commonwealth from retrying Wolfe.”
A dissenting judge, Stephanie Thacker, said the misconduct was so bad that freeing Wolfe was the only proper outcome. She reeled off a long list of examples of misconduct, including failures by Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert to disclose evidence that would have undermined the credibility of the state’s star witness — Owen Barber, the triggerman in Petrole’s death who initially testified that Wolfe hired him to do the killing.
Barber subsequently changed his story several times, and Thacker said prosecutors compounded their misconducting by visiting Barber in jail last year and pressuring him to go back to his original story implicating Wolfe.
“The Commonwealth’s misconduct has continued far too long, and the cumulative misconduct permeating this case has tainted it in such a way that it is doubtful Wolfe will receive a fair and just trial. Enough is enough,” Thacker wrote.
While Wednesday’s ruling allows the state to prosecute Wolfe, the majority judges said Wolfe’s allegations of prosecutorial misconduct may be grounds for an appeal if he is convicted in a retrial.
Earlier coverage of Justin Wolfe's case begins at the link.