WAVERLY, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia NAACP is demanding the state’s Attorney General step up the investigation into a decades-old murder case in Waverly. The case put two Black men away for life even though they were found not guilty of the crime.
“We’re demanding that the Attorney General expedite this as a top priority case,” said Da’Quan Love, the Executive Director of the Virginia NAACP. He said it is rare for the group to get involved in a criminal case but they find the merits of this case astounding.
A federal jury actually found Ferrone Claiborne and Terrence Richardson not guilty for the 1998 murder of Waverly police officer Allen Gibson. Still, a judge used a plea deal the men took in a State Court to sentence them to life.
Calls for exonerating the Waverly two have been growing and pressure for Attorney General Herring to step in has been mounting after new evidence recently came to light. Claiborne and Richardson have asked the Virginia Court of Appeals to declare them innocent.
Love said, “We are demanding that Attorney General Mark Herring uphold his campaign promise to ensure that innocent people are protected and that he join in that actual Writ of Innocence.”
The new evidence laid out in their writs of innocence petitions points to a new suspect.
An 8News investigation back in 2017 found multiple issues with the case. There was no DNA, no fingerprints and no blood to connect Claiborne or Richardson to the officer’s murder.
“There are more holes in the case than swiss cheese,” Love said.
We’re told Herring’s Conviction Integrity Unit continues to work diligently on this case and is interviewing key witnesses.
In an interview, last month Herring told us, “We are gathering all of the available information and evidence. Virginia’s goal has to be about truth and justice, not just trying to maintain convictions.”
To achieve that goal, Love says it’s time for the Conviction Integrity Unit to pick up the pace for not only the men who have been sitting in a prison for 24 years but to be fiscally responsible as well. He said, “Our tax dollars are paying for two men in jail for life who were found not guilty of murder. That’s ridiculous, that’s a waste of tax dollars.”
The NAACP says there is precedent here for the AG to join in the writs of innocence, pointing to the 2016 case of Keith Harward. Herring asked the State Supreme Court to vacate his convictions.