Dear Friends and Supporters:
It’s been quite some time since we’ve updated you (and the website in general), for which we apologize.
Having won an (additional successive) appeal at the Fourth Circuit (4/2011), we’ve been eager to move ahead, but delays have been inevitable for a variety of reasons. Nonetheless, the case is moving forward through the myriad of events that have occurred over the past year- as noted in the CHRONOLOGY section of the website.
We are very grateful to Barry Scheck, The Innocence Project in New York and its progeny in North Carolina and New England, NACDL (the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys) as well as Good and Cormier for the “friend-of the-court” (Amicus Briefs: BRIEF OF THE INNOCENCE PROJECT, NORTH CAROLINA CENTER ON ACTUAL INNOCENCE AND THE NEW ENGLAND INNOCENCE PROJECT (AMICI CURIAE) and AMICUS BRIEF(The Innocence Project(s) and NACDL)) they submitted on our behalf, and to our superb attorneys on appeal, Hart Miles and Joe Zsezotarski. Joe’s presentation at oral arguments was superbly concise, factual, and compelling, and resulted in the Fourth Circuit’s decision in our favor.
We are equally gratified that the Fourth Circuit found that the District Judge's erred in his refusal to consider the material put before him, and had not followed the correct set of habeas laws (2244 v. 2255). The Fourth Circuit ordered Judge Fox’s reconsideration in their detailed Opinion and vacated the District Court’s 11/08 rulings. Judge Fox then held a Status Conference (9/2011) to determine what steps should be taken on remand.
The government was represented by John Bruce (Asst. US Attorney for NC) and Brian Murtagh (now retired, but remaining as “Special Prosecutor” – 42 years at present) Jeff was represented by Hart Miles, our lead attorney since 2008, with F. Hill Allen as co-counsel, and Christine Mumma, Executive Director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence (NCCAI) joining us as counsel of record on the DNA/IPA (Innocence Protection Act) issues.
The conference concluded with Judge Fox’s decision to hold an evidentiary hearing - now scheduled for two weeks beginning September 17, 2012. Since last September, the date for the hearing has changed several times due to the government’s request that Jeff’s hearing not be held near or at the same time as John Edwards’ trial, (the date of which also changed several times) defense requests for time due to the obligations of new counsel, and the court’s own schedule.
With the case now in a new posture, our lead counsel, Hart Miles, felt an attorney specializing in federal habeas law would be best for Jeff. Hart’s decision to withdraw is proof of his genuine care for his clients- just one example of his fortitude and personal ethics. Having first joined us as co-counsel to Tim Junkin in December 2005, Hart remains our trusted friend – his legal acumen and original thinking have been invaluable over these many years, surpassed only by his deep commitment to defending Jeff.
Hill Allen then stepped in as lead counsel, and went beyond the call of duty to fulfill that role in every way possible, despite having inherited it on short notice. However, Hill felt ethically bound to relinquish his involvement, given his partnership with Wade Smith, (former co-counsel) who may be called as a witness at the evidentiary hearing. Hill is a tremendously talented attorney and the most trustworthy of people. He is also deeply missed, but his ethical dilemma (rightfully) came first. He, too, remains a trusted friend whom we greatly admire.
In March 2012, we were fortunate enough to retain Gordon Widenhouse as lead counsel. Mr. Widenhouse is surely one of the most qualified attorneys in any arena, but we know him to be the best in matters pertaining to the obscure realm of successive federal habeas petitions. We are simply thrilled to have the benefit of his experience, talent and amazing focus in preparation for the hearing.
We especially want to thank Christine Mumma- from October 2011 to March 2012- when our legal representation was in flux- Chris stepped up to the plate, taking on unanticipated responsibility for the case -and handled the task most diligently. We remain indebted to her, and appreciate that she continues to represent us on behalf of the Innocence Project.
Lastly, we want to sincerely acknowledge, once again, the many kind supporters- both long-time and new- who continue to care and do so much to sustain us in countless ways. We’re also very pleased to (re) introduce one particular long-time friend, Rick Thoesen, who is taking an active role in updating the website and reaching out to people who care about justice for Jeff. Rick and his wife Judy both served in the Army at Ft Bragg with Jeff, and knew Colette and the girls well. Rick’s participation is truly a gift –enabling us to share information with you more regularly, and developing new ways for supporters to connect to us.
As always, Jeff and I maintain steadfast in our belief that the truth matters. There is no obstacle that truth cannot overcome – it is a force with limitless power. The 4th Circuit's ruling in the Spring of 2011 bolsters and renews our strength as we approach this long-awaited threshold in the case- the evidentiary hearing-which will occur in the crisp of Autumn.
Kathryn MacDonald (Jeff’s wife)
JIMMY B. BRITT
September 25, 1938 - October 19, 2008
His strength and integrity will never be forgotten
Learn more about the career of Mr. Britt
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed.
Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Schopenhauer