FREE DUSTY!

Bloomington man hoping for Virginia governor's pardon

Roger Harvey/Eyewitness News

Bloomington, July 20 - Dusty Turner is in prison for a murder he says he didn't commit. As the Bloomington native waits for a decision on his petition for freedom, retired Virginia prison psychologist Folis Jones believes a jury wrongly convicted Turner, "He was not part of killing the girl."

Jones interviewed Turner at least a dozen times as a senior psychologist with the Virginia state prison system.

Jones says in his 23-year career there were only two inmates out of hundreds who convinced him they were innocent.

As for critics who say Turner was just putting his best foot forward trying to impress Jones that he didn't commit the crime, Jones responds, "Well, I think if you have experience, they can put their best foot forward, but the true character most of the time will always show through and I had not run into an inmate like him in years. There was only one other in my career, who I felt in my heart was innocent."

In 1995, Dusty Turner and Billy Joe Brown were Navy Seal trainees out on the town one night at a Virginia Beach bar. When the evening ended, Jennifer Evans, a college pre-med student, was dead. Turner eventually led police to her body, but it was nine days later.

At the time, Turner and Brown blamed each other for the killing. Two separate juries convicted both men of murder.

Now, nine years after Turner's conviction in a Virginia Beach courthouse, there's a surprising twist. The foreman of the jury who determined Turner's guilt is now working to help free him from prison.

In a letter to the Virginia governor's office, jury foreman Alan Reed writes, "The majority of the jury felt Dustin was innocent of participating in any way with the murder."

The foreman writes Turner's "guilt was in assisting Billy Brown" and "not coming forward until he was confronted."

So why did the 12 member jury convict Turner of murder? One of the jurors, John Pipkin, agreed to talk about the highly publicized trial in his first television interview.

"Dusty was fully involved", says Pipkin. The juror also says Turner and Brown are both responsible and it doesn't matter to him that seven years after Turner's trial, Brown finally confessed, saying he killed Evans and Turner had nothing to do with the murder.

"Why in the world did he ever leave the parking lot with Brown in the backseat, Jennifer in the front seat dead and go over on the other side of the water and bury her in a shallow grave?"

Turner admits that was a terrible mistake. His lawyer says Turner is guilty of accessory after the fact, which in Virginia is punishable by one year in jail, nowhere near the ten years Turner has served in prison.

In an interview with Turner in prison, the Bloomington native told Eyewitness News, "I am not suppose to be here, so I do think it is realistic to expect to get out of here."

Turner's best chance for freedom is a pardon from Virginia Governor Mark Warner. Warner's spokesman Kevin Hall says, "The governor is being asked to supercede his judgment for police, prosecutors, a judge and a jury and undo a criminal conviction. That is serious business."

It's believed Turner will likely learn the governor's decision by the end of the year.