Tag Archives: writ of actual innocence

One-Word Law Change Factors in Court’s Decision to Vacate Conviction

Words matter: A one-word change of “could” to “would” in Virginia’s writ of actual innocence law enacted in 2013 was cited in the Virginia Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion last week that vacated the 40-year-old rape conviction of Roy L. Watford III. 58, of Chesapeake. The state high court ruled no jury “would” have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the light of new evidence.
The language prior to the 2013 change was “could” have found him guilty…
From this article:
“Writing the unanimous opinion last Thursday, Justice Cleo E. Powell noted that the burden is still a heavy one for someone trying to win a writ of actual innocence.
But, Powell added that while the “could” standard required proof of innocence beyond any reasonable doubt, the “would” standard requires the court to consider if the new evidence, versus evidence of guilt, establishes such a high probability of acquittal that no rational person would have found guilt.”

Lawyers, Officials, Work Through Legalities to Free Innocent Man

Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project lawyers are working through this weekend to prepare a request of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell for a conditional pardon for Johnathon Montgomery, 26. Montgomery has served four years in prison following his 2008 conviction of sexual assault. The crime allegedly happened eight years earlier, in 2000, when Montgomery was 14 and the victim was 10. Montgomery was convicted on the testimony of the victim who was 17 at the time she raised the accusation. Now 22, Elizabeth Coast has recanted her testimony and admitted the assault never happened.

Coast says she made up the assault as a defense and explanation to her parents who discovered her looking at sexually explicit sites on the Internet. The Daily Press first reported on this case. This ABC report also indicates that Coast is being charged with perjury for the false accusation. Continue reading