State Will Not Appeal Justin Wolfe Death Penalty Case

Defense will ask courts to let Wolfe out on bail, pending the prosecution's decision to retry.

The Virginia Attorney General has decided not to appeal a that affirmed the vacation of the sentences and convictions against death row inmate Justin Michael Wolfe.

The state had the option of appealing before the fourth circuit court or to the Supreme Court. Since they decided not to, Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert now has 120 days to decide whether to release or retry Wolfe.

Wolfe is now on his way back to the Manassas jail, according to family members. The next step is for the defense to ask for bail. 

"I think we're still trying to digest whether or not this is real," said Terri Steinberg, Wolfe's mother. "We've been waiting for this for 11 years—over 11 years."

"No one should sit in isolation for 11 years," she added. 

prosecutors had “inexplicably withheld" evidence that was crucial to Wolfe's defense in the 2001 murder-for-hire trial.  

The Chantilly man was convicted and sentenced in 2002 for ordering the murder of his marijuana dealer, Daniel Robert Petrole Jr. of Centreville. The triggerman in the case, Owen Merton Barber IV, testified against Wolfe at trial, 

The appeals court's decision was in agreement with U.S. District Court Judge Raymond A. Jackson, who that Ebert and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Richard Conway had resisted giving information to the defense. 

“Essentially, in an effort to ensure that no defense would be ‘fabricated,’ Ebert and Conway’s actions served to deprive Wolfe of any substantive defense in a case where is his life would rest on the jury’s verdict,” Jackson wrote.

A call to Paul Ebert was not immediately returned. 

Steinberg said she was pleased at the prospect of possibly getting her son home, but that justice had not been served by incarcerating him. 

"Really, my heart breaks for the Petrole family ... for 11 years, they did not know the truth," Steinberg said. 

Previous Patch stories about the case:

  • Aug. 17, 2012
  • May 17, 2012
  • March 19, 2012
  • Dec. 2. 2011
  • Sep. 8, 2011
  • Aug. 31, 2011
  • July 20, 2011
  • July 13, 2011
  • July 12, 2011
  • Nov. 22, 2010
  • Nov. 8, 2010
Bob Lessemun September 08, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Dusty, I know throughout the 11 years you kept the faith and believed in Justin's innocence. Thank you for co-operating with me in the early stages of the investigation. I truly believed that Justin would be released 7 years ago when Barber confessed to telling lies at his trial. The wheels of justice grind very slowly but i suppose we should be thankful they grind at all. You did a good job on this. Bob Lessemun
Jeff Vitter September 08, 2012 at 01:02 PM
So when do Ebert and Conway get, at the minimum, disbarred? They put a guy on death row by withholding evidence. They should be prosecuted for attempted murder IMO. VA now has the task of investigating every case these jokers prosecuted. I would hope Ken bills them for any costs involved due to their misconduct. "The judge wrote, “Essentially, in an effort to ensure that no defense would be ‘fabricated,’ Ebert and Conway’s actions served to deprive Wolfe of any substantive defense in a case where his life would rest on the jury’s verdict. The Court finds these actions not only unconstitutional in regards to due process, but abhorrent to judicial process.”"
Zeivah September 08, 2012 at 02:26 PM
I find it really scary that Owen Barber Jr -the guy who pumped 21 bullets into Petrole - will be released soon and he used to live in my neighborhood. Thanks to the Prince William DA who gave him the deal - he will be back causing trouble when he should have been on death row.
autumn mcgrath September 08, 2012 at 11:04 PM
this entire case was ridiculous! there was no evidence! the only evidence against wolfe were a crazy note by the runaway killer's girlfriend and the phone calls between wolfe and the shooter before the crime, which did not indicate a premeditated killing, the frantic back and forth calls looked more like a threatening argument. i saw this case on tv and it really grabbed my attention because it looked so unfair!
Dusty Smith September 10, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Well, Owen won't be out for another 28 years, or something in that range. He received a 60-year sentence in 2002, with 22 years suspended. So by my math, that's another 28 years.


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