Lawyer's testimony reverses death sentence

Jan. 19, 2008 at 12:40 AM
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YORKTOWN, Va., Jan. 19 (UPI) -- A Virginia lawyer testified recently that 10 years ago he witnessed prosecutors coach a co-defendant into testimony that put a man on death row.

Leslie Smith was unable to reveal what he had seen and heard because he was representing William Jones, The New York Times reported. Jones received a life sentence after testifying that Daryl Atkins was the one who shot Eric Nesbitt after robbing him in 1996.

On Thursday, a judge in Virginia threw out Atkins' death sentence, reducing it to life in prison, after finding prosecutorial misconduct.

Smith said he was present while prosecutors debriefed Jones. Jones' version of the crime did not match the physical evidence.

"This isn't going to do us any good," Cathy Krinick, the prosecutor assigned to the case, allegedly said.

Smith said Krinick turned off the tape recorder and spent 15 minutes coaching Jones into an acceptable version of the crime.

The lawyer said the case bothered him for years, but the Virginia Bar Association ethics committee told him he could not come forward because of his duty to his client. Last year, with Jones behind bars for life, the committee told him he could take action.

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