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Virginia Authorities to Appeal Reversal of Death Row Inmate’s Conviction

Posted Aug 9, 2011 1:05 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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Virginia authorities plan to appeal a federal judge's decision to throw out a death row inmate's conviction and sentence in a murder-for-hire scheme.

The state attorney general's office filed notice of its intent to appeal Monday with the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Associated Press reported.

U.S. District Judge Raymond A. Jackson of Norfolk had ruled last month that Justin Michael Wolfe was wrongfully convicted in the 2001 murder of his marijuana supplier, Daniel Petrole, in Prince William County.

In his decision, the judge chastised the prosecution for knowingly using a witness who lied on the stand. He also said that Wolfe's due process rights were violated when prosecutors withheld information from his attorneys.

The witness, Owen Barber IV, admitted to being the shooter but testified that Wolfe had paid him to kill Petrole. Wolfe claimed that Barber had acted alone.

Barber, who pleaded guilty to the murder and agreed to a life sentence in exchange for his testimony against Wolfe, later recanted. He said he had followed Petrole to his home to confront him and ended up shooting him 10 times because he thought he saw Petrole reaching for a gun.

Prosecutors claimed they didn't know Barber's testimony was false at the time of Wolfe's trial. But the judge said they not only knew it was false but never pursued or investigated the information they had that it was.

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