Cops, Courts & Prisons


Originally published in the Autumn 2019 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 60, printed October 28. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2019 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

Staff Report

It’s been nearly 20 years since Jermaine Doss of Norfolk was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit, but his family and supporters have never wavered in their commitment to fight for his freedom.

That was proven again on Sept. 14 when nearly 50 people gathered by the Martin Luther King Memorial in downtown Norfolk for a rally to support a habeas corpus brief recently filed on Jermaine’s behalf.

The brief, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by attorney Bryan J. Jones of Charlottesville, asks that Jermaine be released from prison.

Speaking to the gathering were Jermaine’s parents, Willie Mae and Ray Doss; his sister, Felicia Doss; his godmother, Henrietta Trotter; and Phil Wilayto of the Virginia Defenders, who have been helping the Doss family with the case for more than 10 years.

Willie Mae Doss, center, speaks Sept. 14 at a Norfolk rally to demand freedom for her son, Jermaine Doss. To her left is Henrietta Trotter, Jermaine Doss’ godmother; to her right is Ray Doss, his father. Nearly 50 people attended the event. Photo by John Long.

A highlight of the rally was when Jermaine called in from Sussex II State Prison and addressed the crowd, many of whom were relatives or friends from his youth. Jermaine thanked everyone for their support and said he feels like he is being held in a state of modernday slavery. He currently works in the prison laundry for $0.47 an hour.

Jermaine Doss, now 46, was charged with murder-for-hire in connection with the 1998 shooting death of Norfolk businessman James Webb. The only evidence against Jermaine was the testimony of Nathaniel McGee, who admitted to committing the murder. McGee since has stated in an affidavit and in court testimony that he lied about Jermaine’s involvement because prosecutors had threatened him with the death penalty if he did not.

The police officer who arrested McGee and then pursued the case against Jermaine was former Norfolk detective Robert Glenn Ford, who is now serving a sentence of 12.5 years for extorting defendants and then lying about it to the FBI.

Further, although charged with murder-for-hire, Jermaine was acquitted on that charge and instead convicted of first-degree murder. The problem here is that murder is not what is called a “lesser-included offense” in the charge of murder-for-hire, so Doss never should have been convicted of that charge.

The court is under no obligation to grant an evidentiary hearing or habeas corpus relief in response to the habeas filing. It is the hope of Jermaine’s family, friends and supporters that the Norfolk rally will help convince the court that this case of extreme injustice must be addressed.

The Norfolk rally was co-sponsored by Family, Friends & Supporters of Jermaine Doss and the Virginia Defenders.

Click here for a longer version of this story originally published on the Virginia Defender Facebook page.

Categories: Cops, Courts & Prisons

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