U.S. District Judge Throws Out Capital Conviction, Admonishes Prosecutors

U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson has ruled Virginia prosecutors withheld evidence and supported the use of false testimony in the trial of Justin Michael Wolfe. Wolfe, convicted in 2002, has spent nine years on death row. In a 57-page ruling, Jackson put forth a sharp critique of Prince William County prosecutors Paul B. Ebert and Richard A. Conway. “Ebert and Conway’s actions served to deprive Wolfe of any substantive defense in a case where his life would rest on the jury’s verdict. The Court finds these actions not only unconstitutional in regards to due process, but abhorrent to the judicial process.” Along with charges of withholding evidence and using false testimony, Jackson also concluded the attorneys violated Wolfe’s 6th Amendment rights by the improper exclusion of a juror.

Wolfe’s mother, Terri Steinberg, described her family as ecstatic following the ruling. “It’s the best we could have hoped for. Judge Jackson is the first judge to be presented all of the facts, and this was the decision he came back with. It’s huge.”

Over the years, members of the TADP staff have met and been inspired by Terri Steinberg  as she worked to have all the facts in her son’s case heard by the courts.  Regardless of how one feels about the death penalty, most will agree that our system must ensure that every defendant receives a fair trial and that juries are make these life and death decisions based on all the evidence. If the system cannot ensure a fair process 100% of the time, how can we continue to sentence people to death?

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