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Prosecutor stands by conviction in abduction case

Rejecting claims of innocence from a new set of defense attorneys in an Albemarle County abduction case, Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford has urged a judge not to set aside a jury’s guilty verdict.

The defense lawyers have asked Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins to overturn last May’s conviction of supermarket manager Mark Weiner, found guilty of the abduction of a 20-year-old woman. The lawyers claim evidence that never came in at trial shows the alleged victim made up her story.

After a two-hour hearing Wednesday, Higgins said she would rule in June on whether to hear any of the additional evidence, according to The Daily Progress.

Arguments focused on the unusual procedural posture of the case. Weiner is asking the judge to set aside his conviction before a formal sentencing.

The judge still has the power to reverse the conviction as long as she acts within 21 days of final judgment, contended Steven Benjamin, one of Weiner’s lawyers.

Higgins should respect the jury’s view of the evidence and leave the debate over evidence rulings and trial decisions for appeals courts and habeas actions, Lunsford said.

Higgins seemed concerned about her role at this stage of the case. “If I open the door, how far am I opening the door?” she asked, according to the paper’s account of the hearing.

Weiner’s lawyers say the alleged victim concocted a story about being drugged and kidnapped in order to provoke a boyfriend. They say her story is controverted by cellphone records and other evidence not presented at trial.

The jury, however, accepted the woman’s account that Weiner gave her a ride, drugged her with a cloth over her face and took her to an abandoned house, where she escaped.

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