Alexandria's chief prosecutor, invoking an emergency sentencing law passed in Richmond earlier this year, wants to reimpose the death penalty on a man convicted of killing a city deputy sheriff in a 1981 jailbreak.
Commonwealth's Attorney John E. Kloch last week asked an Alexandria Circuit Court judge to begin proceedings to resentence Wilbert Lee Evans, 37, who was sentenced to death by a jury in June 1981. In an unprecedented move, the penalty was set aside by an Alexandria judge at the request of the Virginia attorney general's office after it was found the jury received false information on Evans' criminal past during sentencing deliberations.
"Please be advised that the commonwealth . . . will again seek the death penalty," Kloch said in a letter to Judge Wiley R. Wright Jr., who vacated the original sentence.
Previously, defendants automatically got life imprisonment if a death sentence was overturned. However, under a new state law that became effective March 28 the state can convene a new jury for resentencing and seek to have the death penalty restored.
Kloch declined to comment on why he was seeking the death penalty again. He said he believed this would be the first use of the new law.
Evans' attorney, Jonathan Shapiro, yesterday said he would contest Kloch's request for resentencing. Shapiro alleged the State Attorney General's Office purposely delayed acknowledging the errors that led to the overturning of Evans' death sentence until after the law became effective.
The attorney general's office has denied Evans' case was deliberately delayed.
Shapiro said a resentencing would expose his client to double jeopardy and constitute "ex post facto" treatment because it would hold him accountable to a law passed after his trial and sentencing. The publicity surrounding the Evans case would make it impossible to select an unbiased jury to decide on the resentencing, Shapiro said.
Evans was convicted of fatally shooting Deputy Sheriff William G. Truesdale on Jan. 27, 1981, while fleeing from the Alexandria city jail. He was recaptured in a parking lot minutes later.
Last April, Assistant Attorney General Jerry P. Slonaker acknowledged the jury that recommended the death penalty had been given records of Evans' criminal history that were "seriously misleading and/or . . . defective."
The jury was told Evans had seven prior convictions in North Carolina. Some of these convictions been made without Evans being represented by an attorney, making them invalid, Shapiro said, and one was later overturned.