Death Sentence Commuted in Virginia

(CN) – Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe commuted a death-row sentence Thursday amid new evidence that convicted murderer Ivan Teleguz did not get a fair trial.

Teleguz will instead spend the rest of his life in prison, with no chance for parole.

The governor maintained that Teleguz is guilty in a brief statement to reporters Thursday afternoon, but called his sentencing unjust.

Teleguz, 38, was convicted in a 2001 murder-for-hire plot involving an ex-girlfriend, Stephanie Sipe, of Harrisonburg, Va., but new evidence has caused many to question whether he got a fair trial.

Three former Virginia attorneys general on Tuesday called on Gov. Terry McAuliffe to halt the Teleguz’s execution.

In a letter to the governor, the three former attorneys general — William Broaddus, Mark Early and Mary Sue Terry — argue that the validity of Teleguz’s conviction has been called into question and that executing him would not only be unjust, but would call into question the integrity of the entire judicial system.

The attorneys general say the new evidence suggests investigators coerced three witnesses and that two have since recanted their testimony. As for the third, Michael Hetrick, whose DNA was found at the crime scene, was allegedly threatened with the death penalty himself if he refused to testify against Teleguz.

In their letter, the two Democrats and one Republican said “Justice cannot be served by executing a prisoner in a case replete with unreliable investigation techniques, coercive tactics, and recantations of key trial witnesses and consideration of false testimony in support of the death penalty.”

In their view case cried out for executive clemency.

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