Justin Wolfe of Chantilly, Va., awaits Friday's bond hearing after more than a decade in solitary confinement

6:59 PM, Sep 13, 2012   |    comments
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PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY, Va. (WUSA) "I think there will be a lot of people there for you."

Terri Steinberg is talking to her 31 year old son Justin Wolfe, who's been in solitary confinement on death row for 11 years.

"That's been 11 and a half years of ups and downs and disappointments and frustrations and shock and disbelief. We were only allowed to hug him every four months for the first few years," said Steinberg.

Justin is now in the Prince William County jail awaiting a bond hearing Friday morning.

Wolfe's bedroom is frozen in time with memorabilia from his high school days. He was a running back at Chantilly High School in 1996 when the team was state champion. In 2002, when he was 21, he was convicted of murder for hire and sentenced to death.

The conviction and sentence devastated the entire family. Twice, his mother was given dates for Justin's execution.

"It was just very sick feeling that, you know, wow, this is the day they say they're going to take my son's life. And you feel so helpless. How can I stop this, what can I do," said Steinberg.

Wolfe was a marijuana dealer. The jury found him guilty of hiring Owen Barber to kill Daniel Petrole Jr., who was Wolfe's drug supplier. Barber was the prosecution's star witness.

But in 2005, Barber recanted his testimony and said Wolfe had thing to do with the murder. In 2010 Barber testified in federal court that he implicated Wolfe to avoid the death penalty. The judge overturned Wolfe's convictions, finding that prosecutors allowed a key witness to give false testimony.

"My son should not be dying for selling marijuana," said Steinberg. She admitted that he needed to be punished for the drug convictions, but that 11 years on death row was more than enough time.

Last month the state lost again when a federal appeals court refused to reinstate the murder convictions and death sentence. The appeals court cited evidence that was withheld by the prosecution, including a police report that an investigator told Barber he could avoid the death penalty by naming Wolfe as the mastermind of the crime.

At Friday's bond hearing, Wolfe's attorney will ask to judge to release him.

Steinberg: "If I don't hold on to the hope than I don't have anything to grasp on to. So, I'm just going to continue to hope and believe that justice will finally be served and we'll finally get Justin home."

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