WAVERLY, Va (WRIC) — A Sussex County community is calling for evidence in a case of two Black men doing time for the murder of a white police officer.
It’s a case 8News has investigated for more than three years. Amid national calls for racial justice and criminal justice reform, a group of close to 100 gathered outside a church in Waverly calling on local and state leaders to give a 20-year-old murder case another review.
Felisha Claiborne, sister to one of the men convicted, told a crowd holding signs that read “Not Guilty,” she won’t rest until her brother Ferrone is free.
“We are tired of seeing our loved ones behind bars,” she added.
Ferrone Claiborne and Terrance Richardson are both serving time for the murder of Waverly police officer Allen Gibson. It’s a crime they have always said they didn’t commit and a federal grand jury actually found them not guilty of.
“We are coming to Sussex with this because this is where the injustice started with Sussex County,” Claiborne explained.
Gibson was gunned down in a wooded area in Waverly while on the job back in 1998. Police record shows his dying words were “two black males were responsible.”
Jarratt Adams, Claiborne and Richardson’s current attorney said the investigation had problems from the beginning.
“Authorities took what can only be [descrived] as a round up of every Black male in the Sussex area,” he said.
There was no DNA, blood, or physical evidence to link the men to the murder. Additionally, the two men didn’t match a suspect description from an eyewitness who claimed one of the men had dreadlocks.
“There was also a photo line-up in which this same witness identified another suspect who not only matched the description given by Officer Gibson, but this same suspect was reported to have cut his dreadlocks off the day of the shooting,” Adams said.
Still, Claiborne and Richardson were charged with the crime. Adams told the crowd having inadequate counsel at the time and fearing the death penalty, the duo took a plea deal.
“Especially two Black men suspected of killing a white officer in America,” he said.
A federal court judge would later use that plea deal to give the men life behind bars.
The federal court maintains there was clear and convincing evidence that the men killed Gibson.
Yet, Adams wants the Sussex County Commonwealth’s Attorney to take another look at that plea deal. He believes the men were pressured into it.
“The facts of this case have been on the Sussex County Commonwealths Attorney office since the beginning of this year,” Adams said.
In the meantime, standing before the group with tears in her eye Richardson’s mom, Annie Westbrook called on others to speak up.
“You saw something, you know something, say something,” Westbrook added.
Last month, Gibson’s daughter Crissana told 8News in a letter she wants the persons responsible for her father’s death held accountable.
“If that is not Terrence and Ferrone, I want justice done for them,” she said in a statement.
She went on to say it must not stop there. Adams agreed, ending the Waverly event by urging the group to write letters to Governor Ralph Northam, state Attorney General Mark Herring and the Sussex County Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Vincent L. Robertson, Sr., Esq.
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