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AG Mark Herring using last days in office to help the "Waverly Two"

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Outgoing Attorney General Mark Herring is using his final months in office to help seek justice for two men who remain in prison for a crime they say they didn't commit.

Back in 1998, a police officer in Waverly was murdered and the local community in Sussex County wanted justice. That's when two Black men ended up pleading guilty to crimes they now say they did not commit. Their lawyer, Jarett Adams, says they were facing a dilemma that often confronts Black men accused of crimes — on one side is taking a deal offered by prosecutors.

"Or do you roll the dice in front of an all-white jury from Waverly and be faced with the death penalty? Most people can't understand why people would plead guilty to something they didn't do," Adams says. "But until you are faced with the pressures that Mr. Claiborne and Mr. Richardson were, then you can't say what you will or won’t do."

That would be Ferrone Claiborne and Terrence Richardson, known as the Waverly Two. Brenda Allen is Claiborne's mother.

"They were railroaded, both Ferrone and Terrence. They thought that they were two little people that nobody cared about, and was gonna just stick them in prison and let them languish there for the rest of their lives," says Allen.

New evidence in the case is prompting Attorney General Mark Herring to ask an appeals court to take another look at the case, which could lead to the men being set free from a prison in Petersburg. The appeals court is currently considering the case.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.