- Associated Press - Sunday, May 17, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Richmond prosecutors are reviewing nearly 100 convictions involving a former city police detective, including those of more than a dozen people who are still behind bars or under court supervision.

The review follows the recent dismissal of three federal court convictions in which former Detective Jason Norton was involved. A federal investigation found that Norton used similar or identical descriptions for various confidential informants in obtaining search warrants from 2008 to 2012, The Richmond Times-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1AcSN4M) reported.

Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring said the Richmond convictions will be examined to determine whether anything improper occurred. If improprieties are found, Herring told the newspaper that the review will determine whether a conviction can stand apart from Norton’s involvement.

Norton’s accounting of his informants’ backgrounds “seems to be definitely augmented, exaggerated, cut-and-paste - we can’t tell what it is. That’s why it’s a problem,” Tanya H. Powell, the deputy commonwealth’s attorney in charge of the office’s drug prosecutions, told the newspaper.

The newspaper said Norton didn’t respond to its requests for comment. He left the Richmond Police Department on July 1, 2013, and is now a deputy sheriff in Hopewell.

Herring said the cases of 17 people who are still in custody are the investigation’s priorities. But it is not clear what could be done for them. Trial courts lose jurisdiction 21 days after a sentencing order becomes final under a Virginia rule, regardless of whether there was a wrongful conviction.

“You’re talking about people for whom the city has lost jurisdiction. So we have to figure out a way, working perhaps with the state or the Attorney General’s Office, to modify sentences or vacate convictions,” Herring said.

Betty Layne DesPortes, a Richmond criminal defense lawyer, believes prosecutors, under a recent Virginia Supreme Court decision, can join defenders in a civil court proceeding to challenge convictions and have them vacated.

“Instead of expending all of the effort to make the judgments that a court should be making or a jury, vacate all the convictions and then retry the cases if you’ve still got the drugs and still got the witnesses,” DesPortes told the newspaper.

Herring said throwing out all the Richmond convictions would be impractical.

The Richmond Police Department is conducting its own internal investigation, said Police Chief Alfred Durham, who was not the chief when Norton was an officer.

“This investigation is ongoing and, depending on the results, other measures may need to be taken as well, and I am prepared to do what needs to be done to ensure the public’s confidence in us is not misplaced,” Durham told the newspaper.


Information from: Richmond Times-Dispatch, https://www.timesdispatch.com

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