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Judge allows new lawyer for death penalty case

Despite opposition from the commonwealth’s attorney, Circuit Judge W. Allan Sharrett has allowed a non-Virginia lawyer as part of the defense team for a Colonial Heights man facing the death penalty.

Joseph W. Vigneri is an experienced capital defender with a solid track record in two states, but he has not yet waived in as a member of the Virginia State Bar. His application to appear on a one-time basis in the case was opposed by Colonial Heights Commonwealth’s Attorney William B. Bray.

Vigneri has been hired by the state Indigent Defense Commission as the capital defender for the central region of Virginia. He has practiced criminal defense law in Illinois and Georgia.

Bray explained he had no objection to Vigneri’s qualifications, but he hoped to avoid any future claims that the capital murder case against Matthew Brady was tainted by ineffective counsel.

“I was concerned about how this would look years later,” Bray said.

Sharrett heard arguments last month on a motion to admit Vigneri pro hac vice in Brady’s case. Sharrett ruled July 9 to grant the motion, allowing Vigneri on the case.

Brady, 29, is accused of robbing and killing an elderly couple in their Colonial Heights home in 2011. He is scheduled to stand trial in March. His case has been marked by more than 50 motions by the prosecution and defense.

Changes in the regional capital defender’s office, including the September forced resignation of former capital defender David Baugh, led to changes in Brady’s defense team. Vigneri was hired in March, according to David J. Johnson, executive director of the VIDC.

“I was very pleased we were able to convince him to come from Georgia,” Johnson said. Vigneri had seven years of experience in Georgia as a senior staff attorney with that state’s capital defender office, Johnson said. He defended 13 homicide cases in Illinois before moving to Georgia, according to a 2007 news report.

Vigneri last month said his motion for certification as a member of the VSB was still in the paperwork stage.

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