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Richardson gets new hearing in controversial case

George Copeland Jr. | 2/8/2024, 6 p.m.
A man who was cleared in the murder of a police officer, but has served decades in prison, has another ...

A man who was cleared in the murder of a police officer, but has served decades in prison, has another chance to seek his release.

Last Thursday, the Virginia Supreme Court granted an evidentiary hearing for Terrence Richardson, allowing him and his attorney, Jarrett Adams, to make their case to the Court of Appeals of Virginia, which had initially refused their request for a new hearing.

The decision followed a November hearing where two legal teams representing Mr. Richardson and the Commonwealth of Virginia presented arguments for and against the evidentiary hearing.

“Upon consideration of the record, briefs, and argument of counsel, the Court is of the opinion that there is reversible error in the judgment of the Court of Appeals,” the court justices wrote in their order to the Court of Appeals. “Without taking any position on the merits of Richardson’s petition, the Court is of the opinion that the Court of Appeals abused its discretion when it refused to grant his request for an evidentiary hearing.”

In 1998, Mr. Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne were arrested in the shooting death of Waverly Police Officer Allen W. Gibson and sentenced in 2001.

On the advice of their lawyers, they pleaded guilty to lesser crimes, were acquitted of murder in federal court, but were given life sentences by a district judge who used their guilty pleas as cause for conviction.

Years after their conviction, Mr. Adams said that he’d found new evidence that was withheld from them and the Commonwealth during the trial. In 2022, support from the office of former Attorney General Mark R. Herring was reversed by his successor Jason Miyares, and a writ of innocence petition was later denied by the Virginia Court of Appeals.

The evidence uncovered by Mr. Adams — including an eyewitness statement, a photo lineup and an anonymous tip to State Police all identifying a third person in the case — was a key part of his legal team’s argument for the evidentiary hearing.

“After over two decades of wrongful imprisonment and nearly seven years of litigating the case, Terence Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne will finally have a pathway to reclaiming their freedom and proving their innocence in court – again,” Mr. Adams said in a statement. “By grantingthe evidentiary hearing in Mr. Richardson’s case, we look forward to the opportunity to bring thecritical evidence we uncovered to light.

“Finally, this ruling will give these men, their families, and the family of Officer Gibson a chance to find the truth about what happened on that tragic day over two decades ago, and importantly, hold those actually responsible for the murder of Officer Gibson accountable.”

Mr. Richardson and Mr. Claiborne’s case has gained national notoriety. Organizations such as The Innocence Project are supporting the men.

The date of the evidentiary hearing has not been determined.