(WRIC) – After an 8News (WRIC) investigation, the Innocence Project began looking into the case of two Virginia men who claim they’re doing time for a murder they didn’t commit. On Thursday, a new battle in the case went to court.
Outside of a Richmond courthouse, attorney Jarrett Adams told 8News he’s fighting to see “all reports, photos, warrants and arrest sheets” Virginia State Police has regarding the case of Terence Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne, who in 1998 were accused of killing Waverly police officer Allen Gibson.
8News first started digging into the case three years ago after both men were found not guilty of the murder, yet in a rare move, sentenced to life in prison.
They’re now pressing for police records they believe could prove their innocence.
Revisit the case with 8News’ investigative series: Not guilty? Sentenced to life in prison
“In short we just want transparency, we want to see everything,” explained Jarrett Adams, the lawyer representing Richardson and Claiborne.
In 2016, Claiborne and Richardson first spoke with 8News by phone from their prison cells. Then and now, both men maintain their innocence:
Kerri O’Brien: “Did you kill officer Gibson.”
Ferrone Claiborne: “No, I didn’t”
Terence Richardson: “They actually knew we didn’t do it. They just needed a scapegoat for it.”
Adams filed a Freedom of Information Act request for their criminal files. Virginia State Police denied the request.
Attorneys for state police declined an interview with 8News but in court argued releasing the documents is at their discretion and generally criminal investigative files are excluded from FOIA law.
“If the State Police, who initially investigated this case, believe they got it right, what’s the point in not giving us the file?” Adams asked.
In a previous investigation, 8News already uncovered a witness statement that doesn’t match the description of Claiborne or Richardson.
Adams says he’s since learned it’s a document that was never shared with their original defense attorneys. Adams wonders if there’s more.
“There could be something in that file that supports their innocence and if that is the case then,” Adams told 8News, “we have a perpetrator who killed an officer still out amongst the citizens of Virginia.”
A plea deal that Claiborne and Richardson took in state court allowed a federal judge to put the two men behind bars for life, even though they were acquitted by a jury of the murder.
The Eastern District Court of Virginia told 8News there was “clear and convincing evidence.”
Yet, as Adams battles for police records, the Innocence Project at the UVA School of Law now has its eye on the case.
“We are in the midst of looking into the case,” said Juliet Hatchett, a staff attorney at the Innocence Project UVA School of Law. “We’re still kind of early in the process but so far it does appear that there has been a grave miscarriage of justice.”
Curtis Claiborne, Ferrone’s father, has been praying for someone to give his son’s case a second look.
“I never gave up hope from day one because I know that he is innocent,” C. Claiborne said.
On Thursday, the judge said he wanted to take some time to review the request for the state police records. Officer Gibson’s family told 8News police got it right.