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Lack of evidence puts Virginia Beach homicide in cold case file

What once appeared to be a closed case is now a cold case for Virginia Beach authorities. Officials handling the prosecution in the killing of a Norfolk police officer have dropped the charges against two defendants citing a lack of evidence.

The development is one that clearly leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of prosecutors. They say the decision was a hard one to make and they insist that the probe into the alleged murder will continue.

But perhaps it should not be too surprising that the criminal charges have been dropped. According to attorneys for the defense, authorities had attempted to build their case on the shaky foundation of testimony from jailhouse informants.

The shooting occurred in October 2010 outside a club where the off-duty officer had reportedly been attending a fundraiser. But it wasn't until 2012 that officials leveled charges against the two defendants.

Defense attorneys say the accusations came despite the fact that there was no DNA or forensic evidence linking their clients to the crime. The alleged murder weapon was never recovered, either. What officials apparently were relying on was the word of some 17 different incarcerated informants.

The defense lawyers say they focused their attention on discrediting the informants' testimony and found it wasn't too hard. Details reportedly varied from one source to the next and in some instances inmates were recorded scheming to get photos so they could identify the suspects in a lineup.

Prosecutors dropped the case against one defendant in March after discovering some witnesses had lied. He is now free. Earlier this week, they said more witnesses had been lost, prompting the decision to drop charges against the second man, who remains imprisoned for other convictions.

Every case is different and outcomes like this one are not always possible. But what this shows is the importance of working with an experienced attorney when you are facing any sort of criminal charge.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Va. Beach drops charges in Norfolk officer's slaying," Elisabeth Hulette, June 3, 2014

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