Man whose murder conviction overturned after 28 years says in lawsuit he was 'framed'
“In short,” the lawsuit alleges, “the Defendants framed Mr. Virgil for murder and took significant steps over three decades to conceal their egregious misconduct.”
NEWPORT, Ky. (WDRB) – William Virgil, who spent nearly three decades in prison before his murder case was thrown out last year, has filed a wrongful conviction lawsuit against Newport, Ky., Cincinnati and several law enforcement officers who investigated him, claiming he was "framed."
Campbell Circuit Court Judge Fred Stine threw out Virgil’s conviction and he was released from prison a year ago in large part due to DNA testing that was not available when he was found guilty in the 1987 slaying of Retha Welch, a Veterans Administration nurse in Newport.
But prosecutors have said there is still enough evidence to convict Virgil and a trial has been scheduled for April 24.
Last week, Virgil and his attorneys filed a federal lawsuit in Covington alleging police and prosecutors "manipulated witnesses, fabricated evidence and withheld exculpatory information that would have demonstrated his absolute innocence of this crime."
The Kentucky Innocence Project has already asked Stine to dismiss the murder charge, claiming prosecutorial misconduct in Virgil's 1988 wrongful conviction.
"In short," the lawsuit alleges, "the Defendants framed Mr. Virgil for murder and took significant steps over three decades to conceal their egregious misconduct."
On April 11, 1987, Welch's body was found in a blood-filled bathtub of her Newport, Ky., apartment. She was reported to have been raped, stabbed repeatedly and bludgeoned with a vase. Her car and several items from her apartment were missing.
Stine overturned Virgil's conviction based on the findings from the Innocence Project, which include: DNA testing showed blood on Virgil's clothes did not belong to Welch and semen in her was not his; hairs found on Welch's clothing did not match Virgil; witnesses' stories no longer held up under scrutiny; and other suspects were ignored.
As he prepares for a retrial, Virgil's attorneys have claimed that prosecutors purposefully destroyed evidence and "fabricated" evidence in the case to "successfully frame Mr. Virgil for murder."
The Innocence Project alleges prosecutors were responsible for destroying a knife in 2005 that had been used as evidence during Virgil’s trial "with full knowledge that forensic testing of the knife could lead to Mr. Virgil's complete exoneration."
Prosecutors asked a judge to order the knife destroyed without Virgil being present or being provided notice that such a request took place, according to the motion. The knife had been linked to another suspect in Welch's death.
The Innocence Project claims nearly 100 pieces of physical evidence from the trial have been retained, including two other knives.
Virgil's attorneys also allege that a jailhouse informant who told jurors Virgil confessed to him while the two shared a jail cell had recanted his testimony in a sworn affidavit.
Joe Womack now says Virgil never confessed to him and information allegedly given to investigators by the former inmate was "fabricated by the hands of the trial prosecutor and Newport police officers.”
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