- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

RICHMOND Virginia prosecutors did not try to contain their outrage yesterday when finding out, for the second time in two weeks, that the Virginia Parole Board had freed a convicted murderer without informing prosecutors that a hearing was due.
In Virginia, victims and prosecutors customarily are notified that a parole hearing is scheduled so they can speak out on the case.
On Dec. 20, the board paroled a former life insurance salesman convicted in a murder-for-hire scam that left a client and his fiancee dead in their home nearly 25 years ago.
A day later, Joseph N. Martin, 51, left a maximum-security prison outside Richmond after serving 22 years.
Martin's release outraged former U.S. Attorney Helen F. Fahey, who helped prosecute the case while working for Arlington County. She accused the parole board of acting at the end of the Gilmore administration and during a Christmas holiday to further keep Martin's release quiet.
"That's why they didn't notify anybody," she said. "They didn't want anybody to find out."
"What they did is appalling," Mrs. Fahey said yesterday. "It's not the job of the parole board to go behind the conviction," she said, questioning whether the board came to doubt Martin's guilt without consulting prosecutors. "My personal feeling is the parole board was conned by Joe Martin," she said.
Fewer than 1 percent of murderers with similar convictions receive discretionary parole in Virginia, which abolished parole for crimes committed after 1994.
On Dec. 13, the parole board granted parole to killer Floyd Honesty, who was convicted in Fairfax County of bludgeoning to death a Navy officer in 1976 in what Commonwealth's Attorney Robert Horan called a "truly brutal killing."
"This guy received life from a jury back in '76," Mr. Horan said yesterday. "I was astounded when I got the notice he had been paroled."
Members of the parole board were unavailable for comment yesterday.
The Martin case began in May 1977, when Alan Foreman, 26, and Donna Shoemaker, 25, were found fatally shot in the garage of their Arlington home.
Mr. Foreman had bought a $56,000 life insurance policy from Martin, naming as beneficiary an investment group he belonged to that Martin had concocted and controlled. Prosecutors argued at trial that Martin hired a hit man to kill Mr. Foreman so he could collect on the policy.
The hit man, Richard Lee Earman, was initially acquitted in the scheme, then later cooperated with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of conspiracy to commit murder and testified against Martin, describing how he returned from a disco with Mr. Foreman and his fiancee, then shot them both at point-blank range.
Earman said Martin promised him $15,000 for the job.
More than 100 witnesses testified during the seven-week trial in 1979, making it one of Northern Virginia's longest, most controversial and costly cases.
The court decided against the death penalty for Martin but imposed a life sentence for the premeditated murder of Mr. Foreman and 20 years for the second-degree murder of Miss Shoemaker. Martin began serving his sentence in January 1980 and first came up for parole in 1992.
Mrs. Fahey said she and Arlington Commonwealth's Attorney Richard E. Trodden were able to prevent Martin's release two years ago because they heard about the hearing in advance. This time there was no warning.
"There needs to be light on these situations because what was done here was done in the dark of night, when they thought no one was watching," she said.
The parole board's 4-1 decision last week came on Martin's 13th attempt to gain freedom from his life sentence.
Like Mr. Trodden, Mr. Horan said he didn't receive any notification from the parole board when Honesty was released.
"The first I had any idea he was being considered was when I got the notice he had been paroled."
Mr. Horan said the statute is not clear as to whether the commonwealth's attorney is to be notified before or after the parole board meets. He said his office usually receives notification of a parole through a "form letter" sent by the board.
He said it was a "jolt" to see one of the names on the form letter was that of a convict serving a life sentence. He was even more surprised when Martin was released.
"This is two lifers in two weeks," he said. "I just don't have an explanation."
This story is based in part on wire service reports.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide