Dustin Turner case to go to Virginia Court of Appeals
By Marcela Creps 331-4375 | email@example.com
June 25, 2008
Dustin Turner is shown at Augusta Correctional Center in Virginia in this photo from May 2003. Clement Britt | Richmond, Va., Times-Dispatch
Linda Summitt of Bloomington cried tears of joy Wednesday upon hearing that her son, who is in prison on a murder conviction, would get a chance at freedom.
A Virginia judge's ruling on the confession of an ex-Navy SEAL trainee opens the chance for Dustin Turner to be set free.
Virginia Beach Circuit Judge Frederick Lowe ruled that Billy Joe Brown's confession to the crime is credible. The next step will be the Virginia Court of Appeals, which will decide on Turner's petition for release based on Brown's confession.
Turner was convicted in Virginia for the 1995 murder of Jennifer Evans. At the time, Billy Joe Brown and Turner each pinned the blame on the other. A subsequent trial found Turner guilty, and he was sentenced to 82 years in prison with no possibility of parole.
In 2003, Brown confessed that he alone killed Evans, and Turner only helped him dispose of the body.
Turner's attorney David Hargett filed an appeal under a 2004 law that allows inmates to present newly discovered evidence. In May 2008, Brown testified in court in an effort to help free Turner.
Hargett said he was pleased that “justice has been given a chance to prevail.”
“Dustin Turner is innocent, and it is time for him to come home,” Hargett said.
Since Turner's arrest, Summitt has fought to have her son released. After 13 years of appeals, she was toasting the decision with a bottle of champagne.
“We made history,” she said, her voice choked with tears. “And it's just overwhelming that we made history in Virginia Beach.”
Under the 2004 law, Summitt said, this is the first time a court has allowed a writ of actual innocence. She said prior appeals have been denied.
Summitt is ready to meet the next challenge and bring Turner home.
“The Lord gave us strength to keep going, and we know our son is innocent,” she said.