Victims of the State

29 Cases

Accomac County, VA 

Burton & Conquest

Aug 10, 1907 (Onancock)

Samuel L. Burton and Sylvanus Conquest were twice convicted of voluntary manslaughter in the death of John Topping. Prior to the crime a man named John M. Fosque secured a financial judgment against Conquest which was levied against Conquest's horse then in the possession of Burton. There reportedly was offensive behavior on the part of Burton and Conquest towards a constable who was sent to collect the debt. Burton subsequently paid the debt and Conquest was fined $50 for resisting the constable. This evidence was used to assert that Burton and Conquest had a grievance against Fosque.

On the night of Aug. 10, 1907, a horse drawn carriage owned by Fosque was carrying passengers from an Onancock hotel to the train station. About 30 feet after it passed a store owned by Burton, a man on the street reportedly stood up from a crouched position and yelled “blaze away,” after which 20 to 25 bullets were fired at the carriage. No one in the carriage was killed, but an outsider, John Topping, received a gunshot wound in the shoulder from which he died 12 days later.

Although Fosque, a white man, sometimes drove the carriage, on the night in question it was driven by a colored man, who was unlikely to be mistaken for Fosque. At trial the prosecution alleged that Burton and Conquest, along with confederates, lied in wait for Fosque and opened fire on the carriage because of the grievance they had against him. It was alleged that Topping was the lookout man for the shooters, the man who yelled “blaze away.”

Two trial juries acquitted Burton and Conquest of murder, but convicted them of manslaughter on the grounds that they encouraged or aided the shooting. The Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals later vacated the convictions after finding that there was insufficient evidence that to two engaged in the shooting. The Court also noted that apart from committing the shooting themselves, there was not a scintilla of evidence presented that Burton or Conquest encouraged or aided the shooting.  (B&C v. Com.)  [2/10]  (Note: Accomac County was renamed Accomack County in 1940.)

Alexandria, VA 

Phillip Leon Thurman

Dec 30, 1984

Phillip Leon Thurman was convicted of rape after being identified by the victim and another witness at trial. He was paroled in Nov. 2004, but had to register as a sex offender. A crime lab analyst, Mary Jane Burton, had, against the rules, saved specimens of biological evidence of the cases she worked on. Evidence saved by Burton had already helped exonerate three convicts. In 2004, DNA tests were ordered on a random 10% of her approximately 310 specimens, resulting in the exonerations of Thurman and Willie Davidson. Gov. Warner pardoned both men in Dec. 2005.  (IP)  [12/05]

Alexandria, VA 

Walter Snyder

Oct 28, 1985

Walter Tyrone Snyder was convicted of rape. The victim had originally eliminated Snyder as a suspect but later made an identification after encouragement by investigator Barry Shiftic. Snyder spent seven years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence, pardoned, and released. Snyder's story is featured in the book Actual Innocence as an example of the fallibility of sincerely believed victim ID and of the process that leads to it.  (IP) (CBJ)  [5/05]

Arlington County, VA 

David Vasquez

Jan 24, 1984

David Vasquez, described as having low intelligence, pleaded guilty to the 1984 murder of Carolyn Hamm. A hair fiber was found at the scene that was consistent with his hair type. A neighbor claimed Vasquez was outside the victim's home the night before the crime. Police taped apparently incriminating conversations with Vasquez after his arrest. DNA tests later linked the crime to a serial killer, Timothy Spencer, and Vasquez was pardoned and released on Jan. 4, 1989. Vasquez was the first convicted person in the world to be exonerated by DNA testing.  (IP) (CBJ)  [6/05]

Buchanan County, VA 

Roger Coleman

Mar 10, 1981 (Grundy)

Roger Coleman was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of his sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy. He was sentenced to death and executed on May 20, 1992. Before this crime, Coleman was accused of attempted rape in April 1977. He was convicted because the victim identified him as the perpetrator despite his having a solid alibi provided by his high school principal. In Jan. 1981, Coleman was suspected of masturbating in front of two librarians at the public library, but maintained his innocence. Charges against him were initially brought in connection with his later murder charge, but apparently were only brought to prejudice the public since they were later dropped.
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Charlottesville, VA

Chris Matthew


Chris Matthew was arrested for rape after a UV law student identified him as the perpetrator.  Five days later a DNA test excluded him as the culprit and he was subsequently released from custody.  Matthew subsequently filed a lawsuit against the victim for defamation because there is reason to believe she was negligent in accusing him.  Several Virginia lawmakers responded to Matthew's suit with a bill seeking to immunize witnesses in criminal cases from liability.  (Justice: Denied)  [10/11]

Culpeper County, VA 

Earl Washington, Jr.

June 4, 1982 (Culpeper)

Earl Washington, Jr., who has an IQ of 69, was arrested in 1983 on minor charges in Fauquier County, VA. After 2 days of questioning, police announced that he had confessed to 5 different crimes including the murder of Rebecca Lynn Williams. Of the five confessions, four were dismissed because of inconsistencies in the confessions and the inability of the victims to identify Washington. In the remaining confession, Washington said that he raped and killed Rebecca Lynn Williams.

Questioning revealed that Washington did not know the race of his victim, the address of the apartment where she was killed, or that he had raped her. Washington also testified that Ms. Williams had been short when in fact she was 5'8", that he had stabbed her two or three times when the victim showed thirty-eight stab wounds, and that there was no one else in the apartment when it was known that her two young children were with her. Washington said he kicked in her door, but her door was undamaged. Only on the fourth attempt at a rehearsed confession, did authorities accept Washington's statement and have it recorded in writing with Washington's signature. He only picked out the scene of the crime after being taken there three times in one afternoon by the police, who in the end had to help him pick out Williams' apartment.

At trial, the confession proved to be the prosecution's only evidence linking Washington to the crime. The defense failed to point out the inconsistencies of the prosecution's case, especially the results of the Commonwealth's own serological analysis of the seminal fluid found at the scene of the crime, which did not match Washington. It also failed to inform the jury of Washington's other false confessions. Washington was convicted and sentenced to death. He came within 9 days of execution when a New York law firm picked up his case pro bono.

In 1993, DNA tests exonerated Washington, but Virginia law barred the introduction of new evidence so he had no redress though the courts. In 2000, Gov. Gilmore granted Washington an absolute pardon. The case was featured on Frontline and is the subject of a book, An Expendable Man: The Near-Execution of Earl Washington, Jr.  (IP) (TD) (JP) (JD#1) (JD#2)  [5/05]

Elizabeth City County, VA 

Richard Phillips

Jan 1900 (Phoebus)

Richard Phillips, a negro prizefighter, was indicted along Grant Watts, another negro, for the shooting murder of Joseph New, a white artilleryman. Both Phillips and Watts contended the other had fired the fatal shot. Phillips was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. Watts was subsequently acquitted of the murder. In 1901 a special jury found that Phillips was insane, consequently he was transferred to a mental asylum and his execution was postponed pending his recovery. Following Phillips' transfer, his attorney learned that the fatal shot could not have been fired from Phillips' weapon and that Watts was indeed the murderer. However, the attorney believed that Phillips was hopelessly insane and made no effort to correct the record. In 1930, the attorney, then a state attorney, was contacted by Phillips' sister. The attorney then informed the state governor of the case facts. A month later the governor released Phillips from his asylum after an examination found he had no traces of insanity. (Afro American) (Daily Star) (MOJ)  [1/10]  (Note: Elizabeth City County merged with the City of Hampton in 1952.)

Hanover County, VA 

Marvin Anderson

July 17, 1982

After a rape victim reported to a police officer that her rapist said he “had a white girl,” Marvin Lamont Anderson became a suspect because he was the only black man with a white girlfriend that the officer knew. The rapist had used a bicycle in the attack whose owner had identified as having been stolen a half-hour before attack by John Otis Lincoln. Anderson was identified by the rape victim using a photo line-up containing six black and white mug shots, which included Lincoln's along with Anderson's color employment photo. Anderson requested his attorney call the bicycle owner and Lincoln as witnesses at trial, but his attorney declined. Anderson was convicted by an all white jury and sentenced to 210 years of imprisonment. In a 1988 court hearing, Lincoln confessed to the crime and offered details, but a judge rejected the confession and the governor turned down Anderson's petition for clemency. Anderson was paroled in 1997. DNA tests cleared him in 2001, and he was pardoned in 2002. In 2003, Anderson was awarded $1.4 million for his 15 years of wrongful imprisonment.  (IP) (Times-Dispatch) (CWC)  [6/05]

Louisa County, VA 

Mike Johnson

Dec 3, 1997 (Louisa)

(Federal Case)  Coleman Leake Johnson, Jr., also known as Mike, was convicted of the bombing murder of his ex-girlfriend, 24-year-old Tammy Lynn Baker. Four months after the murder, two other bombings occurred within 30 minutes of each other in the same area of Louisa as the one that killed Baker. These bombings injured three people. There was no known connection between any of the bombings.

At the time of Baker's death, she was pregnant with an unborn child. Although she was not certain who the father was, post-mortem tests determined the father was Johnson. It was then alleged that Johnson killed Baker because he wanted to avoid paying child support. However, Johnson lived 140 miles away in Newport News and had an airtight alibi. Baker had moved to Louisa after she became pregnant and Johnson said he was not even aware of where she lived. He also had no criminal history.

Senior Special Agent David M. Riley, of the Virginia State Police, was assigned to investigate the case. Riley had previously built a murder case against another Virginian, Beverly Monroe, who was eventually freed from her wrongful conviction. In regard to that case a federal judge found that “the tactics engaged in by Riley were deceitful, manipulative and inappropriate.” In regard to Riley's work in building a case against Johnson, state authorities thought the evidence against him was so weak that they declined to prosecute.

Nevertheless, a federal prosecutor brought charges against Johnson with this same weak evidence along with solicited testimony, most of it from convicted felons. Witnesses testified in exchange for plea deals and a stake in a $36,000 reward offered in response to the bombings. Johnson was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. He currently resides at the top federal prison in Florence, CO.  (TruthInJustice) (News Article)  [11/09]

Nansemond County, VA 

Ernest Lyons

July 31, 1908 (Reid's Ferry)

Ernest Lyons, the newly elected pastor of small church in Reid's Ferry, got into a quarrel with the old pastor, James Smith, over $45 in church funds. Lyons threatened to kill Smith. Smith soon disappeared from the community. A few months afterwards a decomposed body that seemed to match Smith's description was found near Suffolk. When questioned, Lyons stated he had seen Smith in Portsmouth, Norfolk, and Newport News. These statements were shown to be untrue.

After Lyons' trial and conviction, the judge was willing to grant his lawyer's motion for a hearing for a new trial, but only after the lawyer went to Lyons, told him the motion was denied, and asked what really happened. When the lawyer followed instructions, Lyons stated he had been involved in the murder as part of a conspiracy with church members who had testified for the prosecution. Three years later Smith was located living in North Carolina. He had read newspaper stories about Lyons' trial and conviction, but had done nothing because he feared prosecution for absconding with the $45 over which he and Lyons had quarreled.  (CWC) (CTI)  [7/05]  (Note: Nansemond County became a city in 1972, then merged with the existing City of Suffolk in 1974).

Nelson County, VA 

Edward Honaker

June 23, 1984

After a 19-year-old woman was raped on the Blue Ridge Parkway, another woman was raped 100 miles away, near Edward Honaker's house. The second woman said her attacker resembled Edward Honaker, her neighbor. Honaker, had an alibi in the second rape and was never charged, but a detective took his picture and he was identified by the first victim as the perpetrator of the first rape. A forensic expert claimed a definite hair match. The first rape perpetrator had left semen in his victim, but Honaker had had a vasectomy well in advance of the assault. He also had three alibi witnesses. Honaker was sentenced to 3 life terms plus 34 years. After he served 10 years, DNA tests exonerated him, and he was pardoned.  (IP) (CBJ) (CM)  [9/06]

Norfolk, VA 

Kenneth Holland, Jr.

June 17, 1948

Kenneth Raymond Holland, Jr., a former police officer, was convicted of the murder of Charles Everett Utt. Utt was found three miles from his residence bludgeoned with a hatchet in the back seat of his automobile. Police determined that Utt was killed in a lane in the rear of his residence. Holland had been going out with Utt's wife. The relationship was known by her husband and had continued for years. Blood was found on clothes owned by Holland, but none of the blood was found to be of Utt's blood type. Holland maintained the blood came from a fight with a third party. A witness placed Holland at a beer tavern more than a mile from the the scene of the murder on the night of its occurrence. No other evidence of any significance was presented. On appeal in 1949, an appeals court overturned Holland's conviction after finding the evidence against him was insufficient to support it. In 1950 Holland was acquitted at retrial.  (Holland v. Com.) (MOJ)  [1/11]

Norfolk, VA 

Joseph Giarratano

Feb 5, 1979

Joe Giarratano was convicted of murdering Michelle Kline, 15, and her mother, Barbara “Toni” Kline, 44. Michelle had been strangled and Toni had been stabbed to death. Joe had stayed at the Kline's apartment a few weeks before the murders. The day after the bodies were found, Joe was in Jacksonville, Florida and police there contacted him. He confessed to them that he committed the crime. He gave four statements inconsistent with details of the crime. After two detectives from Norfolk arrived and interviewed him, he gave a fifth statement.

This statement was more consistent with the facts of the crime, as Norfolk detectives showed him crime scene photos and could feed him details of the crime, but it was still inconsistent. Joe claimed to have killed Lori before Michelle, but medical reports show that Michelle died before Lori. He had stated that he strangled Michelle with his hands, when the autopsy report stated a non-hands form of strangulation. This report was changed to say manual strangulation prior to trial. Other discrepancies exist.

At trial the prosecution withheld evidence such as that of an alternate suspect whose driver's license was found in the Kline's apartment. This suspect was heroin user and a federal informant with a history of sexual assaults. All trace of him has since disappeared as though he entered the federal witness protection program. In 1991, Joe's appellate attorneys convinced Gov. Wilder to commute Joe's death sentence to life imprisonment and to recommend a new trial. However, Virginia law does not allow new evidence to be introduced after 21 days following a conviction.

Joe had been a serious alcohol and drug abuser. However, in prison, after he stopped taking tranquilizers issued to him by prison doctors, he became a competent “jailhouse lawyer.” A couple of his cases have made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. He worked tirelessly on Earl Washington's case as well as many others. He taught non-violence classes and helped some inmates to read and write. Officials at Red Onion State Prison have since stopped his activism by placing him in solitary confinement.  (Justice: Denied)  [2/07]

Norfolk, VA

Willie Davidson

Nov 27, 1980

Willie Davidson was convicted of raping, sodomizing, and robbing a 66-year-old woman. The assailant had worn a stocking mask over his face, a cap, gloves, and a coat. The victim had known Davidson and his family most of her life. Davidson and his family had moved away years before, but they had stopped to visit the victim the day before the attack. Police put a stocking on Davidson's head and asked the victim if he looked like her attacker. She responded affirmatively. Davidson said that he was at home sleeping while the crime was being committed. His family members supported his alibi at trial. Davidson served almost 13 years of imprisonment.

A crime lab analyst, Mary Jane Burton, had, against the rules, saved specimens of biological evidence of the cases she worked on. Evidence saved by Burton had already helped exonerate three convicts. In 2004, DNA tests were ordered on a random 10% of her approximately 310 specimens, resulting in the exonerations of Davidson and Phillip Leon Thurman. Gov. Warner pardoned both in Dec. 2005.  (IP)  [12/05]

Norfolk, VA

Arthur Lee Whitfield

Aug 1981 (Ghent)

Arthur Lee Whitfield was convicted of two separate rapes, after the victim in each case identified him. Whitfield actually pleaded guilty to the second rape after he was convicted of the first rape. The biological evidence in his cases was officially destroyed, but against the rules, crime lab analyst Mary Jane Burton had taped pieces of evidence into her lab notebook. DNA testing of this evidence exonerated Whitfield of both rapes in 2004.  (Roanoke Times) (IP)  [7/07]

Norfolk, VA

Julius Ruffin

Dec 5, 1981

Several weeks after a woman was raped in her apartment, Julius Earl Ruffin happened to board an elevator with the victim at the Medical School where he worked as a maintenance worker. The victim called police and Ruffin was arrested and convicted based on her identification of him as her assailant. The biological evidence in the case was officially destroyed, but against the rules, crime lab analyst Mary Jane Burton had taped a piece of this evidence into her lab notebook. DNA tests of this evidence exonerated Ruffin in 2003 and a search through a DNA database returned a “cold hit” on another suspect.  (IP) (Washington Post)  [11/05]

Norfolk, VA

Norfolk Four

July 8, 1997

U.S. Navy sailors Danial Williams, Joseph Dick, Jr., and Derek Tice were all convicted of the brutal rape and murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko. Michelle was the newlywed wife of a Navy signalman. All confessed to the crime after hours of police interrogation. However, their confessions were inconsistent with each other and with the facts of the crime. Another man, Eric Wilson, also confessed and was convicted of rape charges only and released in 2005. A fifth man, Omar Ballard, a convicted rapist, confessed to the crime in a letter to a friend.

Two weeks before the murder, Ballard had attacked a woman with a baseball bat in the same apartment complex as that of the murder. He had sought refuge in Bosko's apartment right after the attack when a group of residents sought to apprehend him. Police were able to match his DNA to the semen left at the Bosko murder scene. Ballard initially told police in an audiotaped statement that he acted alone, but at the behest of detectives, he testified to participating in the crime with the other four at their trials. No physical evidence linked the four to the crimes. Ballard has since reaffirmed his original story.

The Norfolk Four petitioned to be pardoned. They were joined in their request by 13 jurors from two of the trials, a dozen former judges and prosecutors, four former Virginia attorneys general, and 30 former FBI agents.

In 2009 best-selling author John Grisham announced that he planned to write a screenplay about the case. A few weeks later, in Aug. 2009, Virginia Governor Kaine announced that he would free, but not pardon the three members of the Norfolk Four who were still imprisoned. The three will remain on supervised parole for at least 10 years and, along with Wilson, will have to register as sex offenders. A book was written about the case entitled The Wrong Guys by Tom Wells and Richard Leo.  ( (Virginian Pilot)  [8/09]

Patrick County, VA 

Dennis Stockton

July 1978

Dennis Waldon Stockton was convicted of murdering his friend Kenny Arnder. Arnder's body was found in North Carolina, but Stockton was tried in Virginia based on the assumption that Arnder was killed there and his body was moved to the North Carolina side of the border. Stockton was convicted solely on the testimony of Randy Bowman, a convict, who in many respects was a more likely suspect in the killing. On appeal in 1995, Stockton's attorney presented affidavits from Bowman's former wife, his son, and a friend, stating that Bowman admitted to committing the murder. The affidavits had little effect and Stockton was executed two days later on Sept. 27, 1995 by lethal injection.

Stockton's case is the subject of a book entitled Dead Run: The Shocking Story of Dennis Stockton and Life on Death Row in America by William F. Burke, Jr. and Joe Jackson.  (TWM)

Petersburg, VA 

Silas Rogers

July 18, 1943

Silas Rogers was sentenced to death for the shooting murder of Robert B. Hatchell, a police officer. Two police officers chased a stolen car through Petersburg, VA and forced it into a ditch. The driver escaped on foot and was pursued by one officer, R. B. Hatchell. The other officer stayed behind to guard the car's two passengers. The passengers were two AWOL soldiers. A half-hour later, two shots rang out and Officer Hatchell was found dead.

Police then combed the area and picked up a black hitchhiker named Silas Rogers. They got Rogers to confess that he had stolen the car in Raliegh, NC and had shot the cop. A judge would not allow Rogers' confession to be used at trial because there was clear evidence that it was obtained through third degree methods. However, at trial the soldiers identified Hatchell as the man who picked them up in the stolen car. Rogers was convicted.

The NAACP reviewed the case and thought the evidence was weak. They found a witness who corroborated Rogers' story that he arrived in Petersburg by train. As a result Rogers' death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Then a fellow convict told Rogers of Argosy magazine's “Court of Last Resort,” an investigative agency that worked to free wrongfully convicted inmates. Rogers wrote to Argosy and got them to work on his case. Jack Kirkpatrick, an editorial writer for the Richmond News-Leader also began an investigation. Working with Argosy, Kirkpatrick assembled a mass of evidence and affidavits to show the two soldiers had perjured themselves at Rogers' trial.

The soldiers testified that they shared cigarettes with Rogers in the stolen car. However, Kirkpatrick proved that Rogers never smoked. He also proved that Rogers could not have driven the stolen car, as he had never learned to drive. The only remaining piece of evidence against Rogers was testimony that his coat was found in the stolen car. When an Argosy investigator found and questioned the witness who gave that testimony, the witness quickly changed his story and acknowledged that Rogers' coat was brown while the coat found in the stolen car was blue. Virginia Governor Battle pardoned Rogers on Dec. 23, 1952.  (Argosy) (Time)  [7/07]

Powhatan County, VA

Beverly Monroe

Mar 4, 1992

Beverly Anne Monroe was convicted of the murder of Roger Zygmunt Comte de la Burdé, her wealthy lover. De la Burdé, 60, died at Windsor on his 220-acre estate. His body was found on a couch in his library with a bullet in his head from his own revolver. Monroe had been his companion for 12 years. In 2002, a federal judge overturned Monroe's conviction due to the withholding of exculpatory evidence by the prosecution. The judge also ruled that “The physical evidence necessary to show whether [de la Burdé's] death was a murder or a suicide was . . . either tainted or lost.” Monroe was subsequently released from prison.  (TruthInJustice)  [5/08]

Prince William County, VA

Lindsey Scott

Apr 20, 1983

Corporal Lindsey Scott was the only black MP in the Quantico Marine Base CID. A military court convicted him of rape after the victim identified him as her assailant. The victim was the wife of a fellow Marine. It was later discovered that the prosecution had concealed a medical report issued prior to trial that excluded Scott as the woman's assailant. After 60 Minutes did a segment on Scott's case, Scott was granted a new trial in a civilian court. The lead prosecutor in the first trial, Major Donald Thomson, USMC, said: “I think that if I was the defense counselor, and had [this] case, I would rip the prosecution to shreds.” On retrial, the prosecution case was ripped to shreds and Scott was acquitted. A book was written about the case entitled Dangerous Evidence by Ellis A. Cohen with Milton J. Shapiro (1995)  [12/05]

Richmond, VA

Victor Burnette

Aug 3, 1979

Victor Anthony Burnette was convicted of a 1979 rape after the victim identified Burnette as her assailant, and a pubic hair found at the scene was reportedly consistent with Burnette's hair. The 19-year-old victim reported that she had seen her assailant outside her apartment on the night following the rape. Burnette lived near the victim. The victim did not report the rape until three days after it purportedly occurred. Burnette was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime. He served 8 years and was placed on probation from 1987 to 1993. Although Burnette was told that the evidence from the case was destroyed in 1987, a semen sample that came from the perpetrator was preserved by state forensic serologist Mary Jane Burton, who had a habit of retaining samples of blood, semen, and saliva evidence. DNA tests on the sample in 2006 showed that Burnette was not the perpetrator of the rape. In 2009, Virginia Governor Kaine pardoned Burnette.  (Times-Dispatch) (Washington Times)  [5/09]

Richmond, VA

Michael McAlister

Feb 23, 1986

Michael McAlister was convicted of attempted rape. The victim said a masked man wearing a red and white plaid shirt attacked her, and McAlister voluntarily put on a red plaid shirt when police asked him to before taking his photo. The victim was later shown a photo spread and identified McAlister, the only man in the photo spread wearing a red shirt. The chief investigator and the trial prosecutor went to McAlister's parole hearing in 1993 and said, “We just felt that McAlister was not the person and that there was a high probability [someone else] could have committed the offense.” Parole was denied in 1993 and in later years, and as of 2002, McAlister was waiting for his mandatory 2004 release.  (Times-Dispatch)  [11/05]

Richmond, VA

Troy Hopkins

July 21, 1990

Troy Hopkins was convicted of murdering Curtis Kearney, 37.  Kearney was shot at 4 a.m. on Afton Avenue, reportedly “a place where drugs are sold.” After trial, several witnesses said Hopkins had not killed Kearney, and in 1992, another man confessed to the crime.  The conviction was reversed on appeal, but then reinstated by a higher court.  In 2001, Hopkins was paroled.  Gov. Warner pardoned Hopkins in 2005.  (Times-Dispatch)

Richmond, VA

Cox & Hood

Aug 31, 1990

Jeffrey David Cox and Stephen James Hood were convicted of the abduction and stabbing murder of 63-year-old Eloise Cooper, a black woman. Two neighbors, both blacks, who witnessed the 3 a.m. abduction, stated the perpetrators were two white males. Police believed the perpetrators to be Billy Madison and Stephen Hood, but neither witness identified them in a lineup. Instead, they tentatively identified Jeffrey Cox, who was included in the lineup because he was a friend of Madison and because Hood suggested he might have been involved. Both witnesses said they wanted to see Cox in person to be sure. In a later lineup, one witness failed to identify Cox, and the other witness was not asked to view the lineup. Nevertheless at trial, both witnesses identified Cox as one of the perpetrators. Police believed the other perpetrator was Madison.
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Southampton County, VA

Vernon Joe

Mar 23, 1975 (Capron)

Vernon Joe was convicted of helping two other inmates, Tony Edward Lewis and Michael Cross, murder prison guard Ronald Albert Barnes during an attempted escape at the Southampton Correctional Center in Capron. Joe's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. Two witnesses against him at trial, inmate Robert D. Saunders, Jr. and prison guard Alfred L. Lynch, have signed sworn affidavits stating that he had nothing to do with the murder. Previously, his two co-defendants, also convicted of the murder, signed sworn statements saying he was innocent.  (Virginian-Pilot)  [3/05]

Virginia Beach, VA

Troy Webb

Jan 24, 1988

Troy L. Webb was convicted of raping and robbing a 25-year-old woman in the parking lot of her apartment complex. Following the assault, the victim was unable to describe her assailant in sufficient detail to allow police to create a composite sketch. Nor was she able to identify him from a collection of mug shots. After more than a month, she identified Webb from a photo array of six pictures, claiming she was almost 100% sure that Webb was the man who raped her.

Serology tests showed that a man with Type A blood deposited sperm found in the victim and that Webb was a non-secretor, meaning that his sperm would not reveal his blood type. Nevertheless, at trial, a serologist testified that the tests could not exclude Webb as the assailant because the semen of a second man, such as the victim's live-in boyfriend, could mask his semen. Webb's defense counsel failed to ask the victim questions about whether she had another man's semen in her at the time of the assault. Nor had counsel sought to determine her boyfriend's blood type.

On appeal, Webb's appellate attorneys argued that two jurors – one who had been a rape victim, and a second who was the husband of a rape victim – should have been removed from the jury. They also argued that the evidence was insufficient to prove Webb's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The appeal was eventually denied. However, in 1996, DNA tests were performed which exonerated Webb of the crime.  (MAIP) (IP)  [7/07]

Wise County, VA

Merry Pease

Nov 18, 1993 (Exeter)

Merry Pease was convicted of murdering her husband, Dennis Pease. Merry maintains her husband shot her, after which he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide. Merry was prosecuted on the theory that she shot her husband, and then shot herself to cover-up her crime. The case prosecutor withheld evidence at trial such as a medical examiner's report that ruled her husband's death a suicide. Merry's conviction has been overturned twice, but the Virginia Supreme Court reinstated her second conviction. Merry was paroled in 2006.  (Bristol Herald Courier) (American Justice)  [12/05]