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Inmate's future uncertain after Va. death sentence tossed

Tuesday - 7/19/2011, 5:33am  ET

Kathy Stewart, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A death row inmate's future still hangs in the balance, even after his death sentence was overturned.

Justin Wolfe has been sitting on Virginia's death row for almost 10 years. But on Tuesday, a federal judge ruled Wolfe was wrongfully convicted in the 2001 death of Daniel Petrole Jr. in Prince William County.

U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson in Norfolk threw out Wolfe's murder-for-hire conviction and his death sentence. But Deirdre Enright with the University of Virginia's Innocent Project Clinic -- which worked with Wolfe's attorneys to overturn his conviction -- says Wolfe is "still not out of the woods yet."

The case likely will head to the Fourth U.S. Circuit.Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., says Enright. She says even if the appeals court does affirm the judge's ruling that Wolfe is innocent of the murder -- a decision that could take six to nine months -- the case would then be sent back to Prince William County prosecutors, who would decide whether or not to try the case again.

Enright says Owen Barber, who shot and killed Petrole, took the stand at a hearing this past November and testified that Wolfe had nothing to do with the murder. Barber said he lied at Wolfe's trial and gave up Wolfe to save himself from the death penalty.

In addition to the death sentence, Wolfe is serving 30 years for gun and drug charges, says Enright. She says those charges were all part of his capital murder trial, and the gun charge stems from the idea that Wolfe gave the murder weapon to Barber to kill the victim.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)