Va. Attorney General files brief in support of the innocence of the ‘Waverly Two’

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 6:34 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2021 at 6:44 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Attorney General of Virginia has joined in the fight for justice of the two men, commonly known now as the “Waverly Two,” who were sentenced to life in prison.

Earlier this month, Mark Herring filed a brief in the Court of Appeals supporting the innocence of Terrence Richardson and Ferrone Claiborne.

Their attorney, Jarrett Adams, said Tuesday he’s baffled by how quickly people can be falsely accused, arrested, and convicted, but getting justice takes decades.

“Why is it that people who look like us always get the short end of the stick?” Adams said. “We always need a million people to confirm what we already know about our innocence. That’s the struggle; that’s the difficulty that we’re having, and that’s why we continue to talk about this case.”

In 2001, a federal judge sentenced Ferrone Claiborne and Terrence Richardson to life in prison.
In 2001, a federal judge sentenced Ferrone Claiborne and Terrence Richardson to life in prison.(Family)

Adams joined the Virginia NAACP on Tuesday to update the public on the case. Claiborne’s mother, Brenda Allen, was also in attendance.

“It has been a very, very hard road,” she said.

For 20 years, Allen’s son has been fighting for his freedom. Claiborne, along with Terrence Richardson, was arrested in 1998 for the murder of Waverly police officer Allen Gibson Jr. in the woods near the Waverly Village apartments.

According to a narrative on the Officer Down Memorial Page:

“Officer Gibson was shot and killed after confront two male suspects in the midst of a drug deal while on foot patrol in the wooded area behind an apartment complex. Upon confronting the suspects a struggle ensued and Officer Gibson was shot once in the abdomen with his own weapon. The round struck the edge of his bullet-proof vest. He was taken to a hospital where he succumbed to his wound.”

Allen Gibson, Jr. was shot and killed in Waverly while on foot patrol in April 1998.
Allen Gibson, Jr. was shot and killed in Waverly while on foot patrol in April 1998.(Officer Down Memorial Page)

Richardson and Claiborne were arrested shortly after the incident. Adams said the two were coerced into taking a guilty plea to avoid the death penalty in the state case. Claiborne pleaded to involuntary manslaughter and accessory; his sentence was suspended per time served already. Richardson pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter with a sentence of five years.

However, a year after that plea deal (2000), the pair was indicted on federal charges.

“The feds tried them for a drug conspiracy that resulted in the murder of this police officer,” Adams said. “So, they basically came up with a drug charge to try them for the murder of this police officer.”

In 2001, a federal jury found them not guilty of Gibson’s murder. However, despite a lack of evidence, they were convicted on the drug charges. That should have landed a 10-year sentence, but a judge, citing another case, sentenced the pair to life in prison.

That so-called loophole is why Adams sought help from the Attorney General’s Office.

“That conviction integrity unit at that Attorney General’s Office - they did their job thoroughly,” he said.

The AG’s office filed a 78-page brief in the Court of Appeals this month, supporting the two men’s innocence.

“If the Attorney General is saying we got it wrong - this needs to be fixed; it really shouldn’t take that long,” Adams said.

“I didn’t know what to feel; I was just so happy,” Allen said. “I was overwhelmed that finally, they’re taking a look to see that my son and Terrence are innocent.”

Having spent 20 years in prison, the wait continues - all dependent on another review of the case.

“I have faith in the appellate court in Virginia to do the right thing,” Adams said.

As Richardson and Claiborne fight for their freedom, Adams added that the person responsible for Officer Gibson’s death is still there.

“Both Terrence and Ferrone have always reminded me that the family deserves their justice as well,” Adams said.

According to the brief filed by Herring, if the appellate court disagrees that the evidence presented in the federal trial and the federal acquittal is sufficient for a grant of a writ of actual innocence, then the AG’s office requested an evidentiary hearing.

However, if the court agrees to the writ of actual innocence, Adams will file in federal court to have the convictions and sentences overturned.

There’s no timeline at this point on when a decision could come down.

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