RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A man who served decades in prison for the killing of a Richmond police officer and whose parole grant sparked a still-ongoing investigation by Virginia’s government watchdog agency has been released from prison.
Vincent Martin, who had been held at the Nottoway Correctional Center, was released on parole, Virginia Parole Board chair Tonya Chapman told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Martin, who was serving a life sentence for the 1979 killing of Richmond patrolman Michael P. Connors, had been scheduled to be paroled May 11, but his release was halted at the last minute.
State officials said a temporary hold had been placed due to an ongoing administrative investigation by the Office of the State Inspector General into the Virginia Parole Board. During a Tuesday rally in Richmond, friends of Martin told 8News that he was expected to be released this week.
Chapman has said the inspector general’s office is investigating whether the board followed state law and other policies and procedures in its decision-making process, but not the board’s ultimate decision in Martin’s case. A spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office confirmed this week the investigation is still ongoing and said she could not discuss it further.
The announcement of the investigation came amid news reports from across the state about parole decisions in which both prosecutors and victims’ families said they were not notified or given a chance to provide input as required by law.
The April decision to grant Martin parole sparked an uproar in the law enforcement community, and both Connors’ family and Richmond’s top prosecutor asked the board to rescind its decision. Republican lawmakers asked for his release to be delayed at least until the inspector general’s findings were complete.
Former parole board chair Adrianne Bennett, who recently left that role to become a judge, released a lengthy statement defending the board’s decision to release Martin. In it, she wrote that Martin “has demonstrated himself over the decades to be a trusted leader, peacemaker, mediator and mentor in the correctional community” and has been infraction-free for more than 30 years. Martin has always maintained his innocence, wrote Bennett, who has not responded to interview requests.
She wrote that his conviction was based “primarily upon the conflicting testimony of the three cooperating co-defendants,” who were also convicted but completed lighter sentences in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Martin previously declined an interview request from The Associated Press sent through the Department of Corrections.
Connors, who was raised in Buffalo, New York, and the surrounding area was the oldest of five siblings in a close-knit family, his sister Maureen Clements said. He started his law enforcement career in Richmond and had been on the force for about a year, she said, when he was fatally shot in November 1979.
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