Lawmakers are expected to consider legislation that would speed up the exoneration process in Virginia for those who have been wrongly convicted and seek it.
Johnathan Montgomery, 26, was cleared of rape after serving four years of a 7 ½ year sentence at the end of November when the accuser admitted she lied in the case. A circuit court judge ordered his release, but in Virginia the state’s “21-day rule” saying only an appellate court can consider new evidence of innocence presented three weeks after sentencing had Montgomery spending 12 additional days in prison before Gov. Bob McDonnell granted a conditional pardon.
Because he hasn’t been exonerated however, Montgomery is still considered a sex offender, has a criminal record and must register as a sex offender until exonerated. Even though the move was legally correct in the eyes of the law, it has many of his supporters very upset with the system.
A few changes may be considered, including one that would allow the attorney general to provide evidence of a petitioner’s innocence. Currently the attorney general may only offer evidence of guilt.
There continues to be debate on both sides, but the Virginia Court of Appeals has agreed to let Montgomery’s petition for a writ of actual innocence move forward. If or when the court grants the writ, then Montgomery will fully be cleared of the crimes and penalties from them.