RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The attorney for Terrence Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne, two men sentenced to life in prison for the 1998 murder of a Waverly police officer despite being acquitted by a federal jury, filed a petition for commutation of sentence in the Supreme Court of Virginia.
The Petition for Clemency to U.S. President Joseph Biden — filed on Sept. 21 — is the latest move to release the defendants from prison.
A jury unanimously found both Richardson and Claiborne not guilty of the April 25, 1998 murder of Allen Gibson, a police officer who was shot in the abdomen with his service weapon near the Waverly Village Apartment, made it to a hospital in Petersburg and died there. The men were also found not guilty of related firearm charges.
Both men were found guilty of the remaining drug trafficking count. The judge in 2001 sentenced the two men to life, to be followed, should they ever be released, by five years of supervised release and imposed fines, according to a recently filed court document.
Richardson’s actual innocence case remains pending in the Virginia Supreme Court. The federal cases for both men have been completely appealed, including timely post-conviction petitions, according to Adam’s office.
The men’s lawyer, Jarrett Adams submitted the petition because all other options have been exhausted. Biden’s office has acknowledged receipt. Adam’s office said the usual timeline on a petition for commutation is two months to a year.
“[T]his case was never about bringing down drug kingpins,” Adams wrote in both men’s Commutation of Sentences.
Adams asserted in both petitions that the judge’s sentence was the functional equivalent of issuing a life sentence for a murder that the jury found the men did not commit.
“Mr. Claiborne is serving life for a murder that a federal jury found he did not commit,” Claiborne’s Commutation of Sentence states. “Unlike his co-defendant, Terrence Richardson, Mr. Claiborne has no legal remedy available to him to prove his innocence of Officer Gibson’s murder and entitlement to federal resentencing, because he pled guilty to a misdemeanor in state court, and the Virginia actual innocence procedures only apply to felony convictions. Absent President Biden’s intervention in his case, it is unlikely that his sentence will be reduced or modified. He will therefore spend the remainder of his life in prison for possession and distribution of a scant amount of crack cocaine.”
While Virginia’s previous Attorney General, Mark Herring, in 2021, agreed Richardson and Claiborne were innocent and filed a response to their Petition for Writ of Actual Innocence stating as much, current Attorney General Jason Miyares reversed course.
Adams asserts this change is a political whim of Miyares, and Richardson and Claiborne’s incarceration is also biased because of their race.
Jarrett had previously filed a petition for appeal in August with the goal of having Richardson’s sentence overturned or at least an evidentiary hearing.