Justin Wolfe of Manassas, Va., convicted in murder-for-hire case, back in court for pre-trial hearing

11:33 AM, Nov 1, 2012   |    comments
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MANASSAS, Va. (WUSA) -  A Prince William County death penalty case that was thrown out by two federal courts is gearing up for round two.

After ten years on death row, Justin Wolfe's murder-for-hire conviction and death sentence were overturned in August. A federal appeals court that found Prince William County Commonwealth's Attorney Paul Ebert withheld evidence that might have helped set Wolfe free.

On Wednesday, Wolfe was back in court facing the same charges and more.

The courtroom was packed with family, friends, and attorneys, many wondering if Justin Wolfe will receive a fair trial this time. Several independent attorneys told 9News's Peggy Fox that they think Wolfe was framed the first time.

The star witness who helped convince the jury to convict Justin Wolfe was a man named Owen Barber. Barber was the triggerman who shot Danny Patrole. He told the jury 11 years ago that Wolfe hired him to do it.

What Wolfe's defense didn't know was that a detective told Owen Barber that he could avoid the death penalty himself, if he implicated Wolfe. That conversation was recorded, but never given to the defense.
It showed that Barber had a motive for lying.

And Barber has in fact recanted his original testimony. In a federal court, he said Wolfe did NOT hire him to kill Patrole.


But Wednesday, Owen Barber, who's serving a 30-year prison sentence, was back in court for a hearing, but said nothing. He took the 5th, which means prosecutors won't be able to use his testimony this time around.


Wolfe's new trial is set for January.


Ebert has recused himself from the case, and Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh is the special prosecutor. The Defense is trying to have Morrogh ousted because of his close friendship with Ebert.

Judge Mary Grace O'Brien rejected the defense subpoena to force Paul Ebert and Richard Conway to testify in today's hearing. The motion under review today and continuing is whether special prosecutor Fairfax County Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Morrogh should be removed. Ebert, after recusing himself from the case, recommended Morrogh for the job and Judge Obrien made the appointment.

The defense believes Morrogh cannot be impartial in the retrial because of his close relationship with Ebert.

So do 59 former judges, former prosecutors, lawyers and law professors who've signed a letter asking O'Brien to remove Morrogh as special prosecutor.

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