RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Can the Commonwealth of Virginia change its mind?
Attorneys for a man who was acquitted in the death of a Waverly Police Officer but nevertheless sentenced to life in prison, say no, it absolutely cannot.
Before he left office, former Attorney General Mark Herring filed a brief before the Virginia Court of Appeals supporting Terrence Richardson’s request for a writ of actual innocence – a document that might grant him his freedom after over twenty years behind bars.
But just over a month after taking office, Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares reversed course on the petition, calling for the courts to reject the petition and firing the entire Wrongful Conviction Integrity Unit, the group of Commonwealth’s Attorneys who had worked on Richardson’s case and others like it.
“We are now of the view that both Virginia law and the facts of this case do not support the claim for a writ of actual innocence,” a spokesperson for Miyares said. “We no longer adhere to the claims because they fail to prove innocence, which is necessary for a successful writ of actual innocence.”
Now, Richardson’s attorney, Jarrett Adams, has filed a counter-argument, claiming that not only do the facts support Richardson’s claim of innocence, but Miyares cannot legally change the commonwealth’s position at this stage in the case.
The filing cites several cases that have been heard in Virginia courts, one of which asserts that the law “precludes litigants from ‘playing fast and loose’ with the courts … or ‘blowing hot and cold’ depending on their perceived self-interests.”
“In attempting to withdraw its earlier Answer,” Adams wrote. “The Commonwealth provides the Court no authority—nor does any exist—that places it above centuries of Virginia jurisprudence binding it to the initial position it asserted.”
Adams’ filing also repeats the extensive evidence cited by Richardson in support of his claim to innocence, including unreliable eyewitnesses, Richardson’s acquittal by a federal jury and police misconduct during the investigation.