Mom disappointed at Va. court decision

UPI – 9/18/2011

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., Sept. 18 (UPI) — An Indiana woman said she was devastated by a Virginia court’s refusal to overturn her son’s conviction in a 1995 murder involving two Navy SEAL trainees.

The state Supreme Court Friday turned down a “writ of actual innocence” appeal filed by Dustin Turner, who was convicted along a fellow sailor of killing college student Jennifer Evans outside a Virginia Beach nightclub.

Turner’s mother, Linda Summitt, told The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot she was “very upset and disappointed” by the ruling.

“I don’t believe the judges read the facts,” Summitt told the newspaper. “All anyone has to do is read the facts and they know that Dusty is innocent and deserves to be set free.”

The newspaper said Turner’s writ was the first filed under a 2004 state law allowing court’s to consider non-biological evidence of innocence after trial. In Turner’s case, it was a prison confession by co-defendant Billy Joe Brown, who claimed he had strangled Evans and Turner’s only role was helping him get rid of the body.

But the court said Brown’s confession did not absolve Turner of guilt.

Virginia Beach appellate lawyer Steven Emmert explained in an Internet posting: “Once the victim was killed, it didn’t matter who did the strangling or whether Turner had an opportunity to try to save her. Once you get involved in a joint criminal act, you’re at risk of prosecution for whatever happens, even if the primary perpetrator is someone else.”