Code of Virginia

Code of Virginia
Title 19.2. Criminal Procedure
1/20/2019

Chapter 19.2. Issuance of Writ of Actual Innocence.

§ 19.2-327.2. Issuance of writ of actual innocence based on biological evidence.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law or rule of court, upon a petition of a person who was convicted of a felony upon a plea of not guilty or who was adjudicated delinquent upon a plea of not guilty by a circuit court of an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult, or for any person, regardless of the plea, sentenced to death, or convicted or adjudicated delinquent of (i) a Class 1 felony, (ii) a Class 2 felony, or (iii) any felony for which the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life, the Supreme Court shall have the authority to issue writs of actual innocence under this chapter. The writ shall lie to the circuit court that entered the felony conviction or adjudication of delinquency and that court shall have the authority to conduct hearings, as provided for in § 19.2-327.5, on such a petition as directed by order from the Supreme Court.

2001, cc. 873, 874; 2009, cc. 139, 320; 2013, c. 170.

§ 19.2-327.2:1. Petition for writ of actual innocence joined by Attorney General; release of prisoner; bond hearing.

The Attorney General may join in a petition for a writ of actual innocence made pursuant to § 19.2-327.2. When such petition is so joined, the petitioner may file a copy of the petition and attachments thereto and the Attorney General's answer with the circuit court that entered the felony conviction and move the court for a hearing to consider release of the person on bail pursuant to Chapter 9 (§ 19.2-119 et seq.). Upon hearing and for good cause shown, the court may order the person released from custody subject to the terms and conditions of bail so established, pending a ruling by the Supreme Court on the writ under § 19.2-327.5.

2015, c. 66.

§ 19.2-327.3. Contents and form of the petition based on previously unknown or untested human biological evidence of actual innocence.

A. The petitioner shall allege categorically and with specificity, under oath, the following: (i) the crime for which the petitioner was convicted or the offense for which the petitioner was adjudicated delinquent, and that such conviction or adjudication of delinquency was upon a plea of not guilty or that the person is under a sentence of death or convicted of (a) a Class 1 felony, (b) a Class 2 felony, or (c) any felony for which the maximum penalty is imprisonment for life; (ii) that the petitioner is actually innocent of the crime for which he was convicted or adjudicated delinquent; (iii) an exact description of the human biological evidence and the scientific testing supporting the allegation of innocence; (iv) that the evidence was not previously known or available to the petitioner or his trial attorney of record at the time the conviction or adjudication of delinquency became final in the circuit court, or if known, the reason that the evidence was not subject to the scientific testing set forth in the petition; (v) the date the test results under § 19.2-327.1 became known to the petitioner or any attorney of record; (vi) that the petitioner or his attorney of record has filed the petition within 60 days of obtaining the test results under § 19.2-327.1; (vii) the reason or reasons the evidence will prove that no rational trier of fact would have found proof of guilt or delinquency beyond a reasonable doubt; and (viii) for any conviction or adjudication of delinquency that became final in the circuit court after June 30, 1996, that the evidence was not available for testing under § 9.1-1104. The Supreme Court may issue a stay of execution pending proceedings under the petition. Nothing in this chapter shall constitute grounds to delay setting an execution date pursuant to § 53.1-232.1 or to grant a stay of execution that has been set pursuant to clause (iii) or (iv) of § 53.1-232.1.

B. Such petition shall contain all relevant allegations of facts that are known to the petitioner at the time of filing and shall enumerate and include all previous records, applications, petitions, and appeals and their dispositions. A copy of any test results shall be filed with the petition. The petition shall be filed on a form provided by the Supreme Court. If the petitioner fails to submit a completed form, the Court may dismiss the petition or return the petition to the prisoner pending the completion of such form. The petitioner shall be responsible for all statements contained in the petition. Any false statement in the petition, if such statement is knowingly or willfully made, shall be a ground for prosecution and conviction of perjury as provided for in § 18.2-434.

C. The Supreme Court shall not accept the petition unless it is accompanied by a duly executed return of service in the form of a verification that a copy of the petition and all attachments has been served on the attorney for the Commonwealth of the jurisdiction where the conviction or adjudication of delinquency occurred and the Attorney General or an acceptance of service signed by these officials, or any combination thereof. The Attorney General shall have 30 days after receipt of the record by the clerk of the Supreme Court in which to file a response to the petition. The response may contain a proffer of any evidence pertaining to the guilt or delinquency or innocence of the petitioner that is not included in the record of the case, including evidence that was suppressed at trial.

D. The Supreme Court may, when the case has been before a trial or appellate court, inspect the record of any trial or appellate court action, and the Court may, in any case, award a writ of certiorari to the clerk of the respective court below, and have brought before the Court the whole record or any part of any record.

E. In any petition filed pursuant to this chapter, the petitioner is entitled to representation by counsel subject to the provisions of Article 3 (§ 19.2-157 et seq.) of Chapter 10.

2001, cc. 873, 874; 2003, c. 131; 2005, cc. 868, 881; 2009, cc. 139, 320; 2013, cc. 170, 180.

§ 19.2-327.4. Determination by the Supreme Court for findings of fact by the circuit court.

If the Supreme Court determines from the petition, from any hearing on the petition, from a review of the records of the case, including the record of any hearing on a motion to test evidence pursuant to § 9.1-1104, or from any response from the Attorney General that a resolution of the case requires further development of the facts under this chapter, the court may order the circuit court to conduct a hearing within 90 days after the order has been issued to certify findings of fact with respect to such issues as the Supreme Court shall direct. The record and certified findings of fact of the circuit court shall be filed in the Supreme Court within 30 days after the hearing is concluded. The petitioner or his attorney of record, the attorney for the Commonwealth and the Attorney General shall be served a copy of the order stating the specific purpose and evidence for which the hearing has been ordered.

2001, cc. 873, 874; 2005, cc. 868, 881.

§ 19.2-327.5. Relief under writ.

Upon consideration of the petition, the response by the Commonwealth, previous records of the case, the record of any hearing held under this chapter and the record of any hearings held pursuant to § 19.2-327.1, and if applicable, any findings certified from the circuit court pursuant to § 19.2-327.4, the Supreme Court shall either dismiss the petition for failure to state a claim or assert grounds upon which relief shall be granted; or upon a hearing the Court shall (i) dismiss the petition for failure to establish allegations sufficient to justify the issuance of the writ or (ii) only upon a finding of clear and convincing evidence that the petitioner has proven all of the allegations contained in clauses (iv) through (viii) of subsection A of § 19.2-327.3, and upon a finding that no rational trier of fact would have found proof of guilt or delinquency beyond a reasonable doubt, grant the writ, and vacate the conviction or adjudication of delinquency, or in the event that the Court finds that no rational trier of fact would have found sufficient evidence beyond a reasonable doubt as to one or more elements of the offense for which the petitioner was convicted or adjudicated delinquent, but the Court finds that there remains in the original trial record evidence sufficient to find the petitioner guilty or delinquent beyond a reasonable doubt of a lesser included offense, the Court shall modify the conviction or adjudication of delinquency accordingly and remand the case to the circuit court for resentencing. The burden of proof in a proceeding brought pursuant to this chapter shall be upon the convicted or delinquent person seeking relief. If a writ vacating a conviction or adjudication of delinquency is granted, the Court shall forward a copy of the writ to the circuit court, where an order of expungement shall be immediately granted.

2001, cc. 873, 874; 2007, cc. 465, 824, 883, 905; 2009, cc. 139, 320; 2013, cc. 170, 180.

§ 19.2-327.6. Claims of relief.

An action under this chapter or the performance of any attorney representing the petitioner under this chapter shall not form the basis for relief in any habeas corpus or appellate proceeding. Nothing in this chapter shall create any cause of action for damages against the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions or any officers, employees or agents of the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions.

2001, cc. 873, 874.

The chapters of the acts of assembly referenced in the historical citation at the end of these sections may not constitute a comprehensive list of such chapters and may exclude chapters whose provisions have expired.

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