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High-profile Virginia prosecutor accused of withholding evidence in murder case

Known for pursuing the death penalty in capital murder cases, Paul B. Ebert became known nationally for high-profile cases including the trials of John and Lorena Bobbitt in the early 1990s.

MANASSAS, Va. (CN) — A noted Virginia prosecutor withheld exculpatory evidence during the trial of a man accused of murdering a state trooper 30 years ago, according to a petition filed in Prince William County Circuit Court.

The filing asks the court to set aside the conviction of Louis Jefferson Dukes Jr., one of two men convicted in the death of Jose M. Cavazos, a 50-year-old trooper who was gunned down at a traffic stop. According to newspaper and wire service accounts of the time, Dukes and his nephew, Lonnie Weeks Jr., were tracked by police dogs and discovered at a motel after the February 1993 murder. Dukes, now 52, was sentenced to life and is at the Haynesville Correctional Center. Weeks received the death penalty and was executed in 2000.

In his petition filed Wednesday, Dukes takes issue with his prosecution, led by Paul B. Ebert, the now-retired commonwealth attorney for Prince William.

“There were material misrepresentations made to the court in the trial of this matter wherein a fraud was perpetrated in the prosecution," asserts a filing Wednesday by Richard MacDowell, an attorney for Dukes.

Specifically, Dukes says in his petition, the prosecution falsely asserted that a serology report established that Dukes was in close proximity to the trooper at the time of the murder.

“In fact, the commonwealth’s attorney knew this was not the victim’s blood on the petitioner’s jacket," the petition says. Even so, the prosecutor argued that this was proof of Duke's role and proximity at the time of the trooper’s murder.

The lawsuit also contends that Ebert established an understanding with an inmate, a prosecution witness who had shared a cell with Dukes.  Ebert made it known to the inmate, who was seeking a reduced sentence, that testimony in the Dukes case “certainly would not hurt.”

Amy Ashworth, Prince William's commonwealth attorney, had no comment. Either that office or the state attorney general will handle the case.

While the petition mentions Ebert, it does not name him as respondent. The legendary prosecutor retired in 2019.

Known for pursuing the death penalty in capital murder cases, Ebert represented Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park from 1967 to 2019, making him the longest serving commonwealth’s attorney, according to the county. The judicial center’s law library is named in honor of him.  

Nationally, he became known for several high-profile cases — specifically, the 1993 and 1994 trials of John and Lorena Bobbitt, as well as the 2003 trial of John Allen Muhammed, one of the Washington, D.C., snipers.

Categories / Criminal, Government, Regional

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