All News & Blogs
U.Va. Innocence Project and child advocacy group trying to free teen they say was wrongfully convicted of rape
View More Images from this story
Visit the Photo Place
|RELATED STORY: Attorney: System needs safeguards|
He is currently housed in a Department of Juvenile Justice facility.
FIGHTING FOR HIS RELEASE
On Jan. 22, Block and Enright sent a letter asking Department of Juvenile Justice Director Barry R. Green to release the boy.
They outlined the steps they have taken to investigate his family's claims of his innocence, the support of Sousa and her daughter, and how the case moved through the Stafford justice system.
"We're not asking him to do anything he doesn't have the authority to do, regardless of [the boy's] guilt or innocence," Block said.
After taking custody of him in the fall of 2007, the Department of Juvenile Justice classified the boy as a "major offender" and set his term of confinement at between 18 and 36 months. That makes March 19 the earliest possible release date without the agency's director intervening in response to the attorneys' request.
But Block said Green has the discretionary power to release the boy immediately, absent any court action.
"Even though the Department of Juvenile Justice is our first step, it's not that we're laying the blame for any of this at their feet," Block said.
Green said this week that it is standard for him to periodically review the case of any youth classified as a major offender and that he routinely does it as an early release date approaches. If the youth has successfully completed any programs he or she was required to take part in and has everything in place for any assistance needed after release, then the department's practice is to work toward release.
"For any of the kids we have, our goal is not to incarcerate them any longer than need be," Green said.
Though he is powerless to deal with issues of innocence and would not discuss details of this case, Green said he would review it.
"I will give this an honest look. If he's either completed or amenable to completing whatever requirements there are within the community, we would not have a reason to hold him," Green said.
Enright and Block said they are working for the boy on three fronts.
First, they hope to get him released from custody. Next, they want to clear his record of the convictions.
Enright, her investigator and students in her Innocence Project clinic are working to craft what's known as a habeas corpus petition, a legal appeal raised on constitutional grounds.
This case, at a minimum, will include an argument that the boy had ineffective counsel, Enright said.
Finally, the attorneys want to get the boy's name removed from the sex-offender registry.
"In a lot of ways, the registry is what has the potential to really ruin his life, if we haven't already," Enright said.
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972