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Attorneys and former judges criticize decision to retry Va. man

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Fifty-nine current or former attorneys, judges and members of the legal community are criticizing the appointment of a special prosecutor in the case of a Chantilly man whose death sentence was recently vacated by a federal court as hasty and suggested Prince William County prosecutors may have had an untoward influence on his decision to re-try the case within 24 hours of his appointment.

A federal appeals court in July affirmed another court's ruling that Justin Wolfe, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 2002, should be exonerated because the prosecution improperly sat on evidence discrediting a key witness, and Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II said last month the state would not pursue the case any further.

But Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert asked that his Fairfax counterpart, Raymond F. Morrogh, be appointed as a special prosecutor since Mr. Wolfe's murder, gun and drug charges were dropped.

"A special prosecutor should conduct a meaningful, independent review of the case," reads the letter to Judge Mary O'Brien of Prince William County Circuit Court. "Unfortunately, less than 24 hours after his appointment, Mr. Morrogh announced his intention to retry Wolfe. This suggests a hurried decision in which the special prosecutor did not carefully examine the evidence to reach an independent conclusion about the case, but instead relied on the earlier deliberation of the Prince William County prosecutors — prosecutors who were responsible for the misconduct and errors in judgment that left Mr. Wolfe on death row for more than a decade."

The letter also points out that Mr. Wolfe's attorneys had no opportunity to voice their opinions on Mr. Morrogh's appointment, which they wrote was significant because Mr. Ebert — who had to recuse himself from the case because the court found attorneys from his office were withholding evidence — recommended Mr. Morrogh.

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