A former Charlottesville supermarket manager jailed after being accused and then convicted of abduction is free after both a prosecutor and a judge agreed there were substantial questions about the fairness of his trial.
The prosecutor said an unwitting violation of Mark L. Weiner’s constitutional rights played a part in her decision to join the motion to vacate his conviction.
Weiner was freed on Tuesday after two-and-a-half years in jail. He had been facing an eight-year prison sentence for abduction.
The case turned on the eroding credibility of the alleged victim. She testified Weiner offered to give her a ride home on Dec. 12, 2012, but instead drugged her and took her to an abandoned house where she escaped.
Weiner, however, claimed he gave her a ride to her mother’s apartment, left her there unharmed and promptly drove to his own home.
A jury believed the alleged victim. Since his 2013 conviction, however, Weiner’s lawyers have amassed a growing pool of evidence undermining the alleged victim’s credibility.
The cumulative effect of evidence suggesting the alleged victim lied, combined with concern about an unintended failure to disclose helpful information to the defense, led Albemarle County Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Y. Lunsford to agree Tuesday that the conviction should be vacated.
Lunsford said she learned just this month that the alleged victim had been involved in a sale of cocaine to an undercover informant in another jurisdiction in January.
It was information that should have been disclosed to the defense before a hearing in May, but Lunsford said her office was not informed because the officers involved did not realize the connection to the Weiner case.
“In the matter at hand, the recently received information, when considered in combination with previously received information, has led to a situation in which the confidence in the outcome of the trial is undermined,” Lunsford said in agreeing to have the conviction overturned.
“From my perspective, it was the right thing to do,” Lunsford said afterward.
“We have difficult decisions to make in the office all the time. The overriding concern is the public’s interest in justice and fairness,” she said.
Updated July 27, 2017, to add hyperlink to earlier article.