Justin Wolfe Denied Release By Prince William County Judge

10:27 PM, Sep 14, 2012   |    comments
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MANASSAS,  Va. (WUSA) -- Big disappointment for the Fairfax County family of a man who has spent the last decade on death row for a crime he may not have committed.  

Prince William County Judge Mary Grace O'Brien denied Wolfe's request to be released on bond.   This, despite the fact that last year a federal judge threw out Wolfe's death sentence and conviction after finding prosecutors withheld important evidence. 

"It's so unfair. That Justin has spent 11 years in solitary confinement for a crime he didn't commit and it's time for him to come home," said Terri Steinberg as she choked back tears. It was a crushing disappointment not being able to finally bring her son, Justin Wolfe home.

In 2002, at 20 years old, Justin Wolfe was convicted of murder for hire in the shooting death of fellow marijuana dealer Daniel Petrole. Wolfe was sentenced to death. The killer, Owen Barber, who is serving 38 years, testified then that Wolfe hired him to do it. But Barber recanted, and now says that was a lie and that he said it only to save himself. But prosecutors say they are preparing to retry Wolfe.

Wolfe's aunt Tina Marie said "I don't know what evidence they have. Owen has gone on the stand and admitted that Justin had nothing to do with this that it was only to avoid the death penalty himself. ... Judge Jackson a truthful statement. "

 Wolfe's members extended family were at the courthouse in force.

"He is a changed man. He spent 10 years on death row. Enough's enough already," said family friend Lisa Ramano.

 "This has been the largest scared straight program ever.  Eleven  years on death row. He's seen a number of men walk off to their death. That's a lesson no one should experience," said Steinberg.

Justin's Wolfe's youngest sister was only four years old when he was sentenced to death. She's hoping he'll be home for her
 16th birthday in November. "That my birthday wish," she said.

 Wolfe's attorney Matt Engle argued that a federal judge had "read all the evidence" and found that Wolfe had demonstrated his innocence to capital murder.  He said  that the state's objections had already been rebutted and that are no further appeals.   

Engle argued that Wolfe was not a flight risk, or a threat to the community.  He said Wolfe has shown good conduct, has strong community ties and would be able to live and work at him mother's home.  His stepfather, he said, has a job for him.   Engle said Wolfe wants to cooperate with the  court.  

But Commonwealth's attorney Ray Morrogh did not accept the argument.   Judge O'Brien appointed Morrogh  special prosecutor after Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert recused himself.  Morrogh  argued that the federal case was a 'truth hearing' which is separate from the state's case and has a different standard.   

 He said "We are in the Commonwealth and these charges still stand. Morrogh said Wolfe was still a flight risk and said that there is no presumption of bond for a capital murder for hire charge.

 He said Wolfe was a drug kingpin who was owed some $500,000.  back that he said Wolf lead an extravagant lifestyle and sold drugs to high school children.

 "This defendant was absolutely involved in this murder," said Morrogh.

A trial date was set for October 15th. 

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