Cops, Courts & Prisons


Originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 61, printed February 17. Reproduced here in for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Winter 2020 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

Jermaine Doss, in center, with his brother Jabbar and sister Felicia. The photo was
taken at Sussex II State Prison in Waverly, Va. Photo courtesy the Doss family.

Regular readers of the Defender should be familiar with the case of Jermaine Doss of Norfolk, who was sent to prison in 2000 in connection with the shooting death of Norfolk businessman James Webb.

Doss was charged with murder-for-hire, but the jury acquitted him of that charge. Instead, he was convicted of murder, which the judge instructed the jury was what is called a “lesser-included offense.” Doss contends that the judge was mistaken, and makes a good legal argument to back up his position.

Further, the only evidence against Doss was the testimony of the admitted murderer, Nathaniel McGee. McGee has since stated in a letter to Doss, 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 the notorious former Norfolk detective Robert Glenn Ford, now serving a sentence of 12.5 years for extorting defendants and then lying about it to the FBI.

Jermaine’s working-class parents, Willie Mae and Ray Doss, have spent the last 20 years hiring lawyers, attending hearings, circulating petitions, organizing rallies and press conferences and more in an effort to help free their son.

A petition for a governor’s pardon has languished in the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth for nearly six years, without a response. (On Nov. 28, the Richmond Times Dispatch ran a front-page, above-the-fold story about this titled “Family’s hopes for pardon from Virginia governor languish for years.”)

The latest attempt at judicial relief – a habeas corpus brief filed last fall in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by attorney Bryan J. Jones of Charlottesville asking that Jermaine be released from prison – has yet to receive a response.

For this issue of the Defender, we asked Jermaine to tell us in his own words what he is feeling about what thousands of people now believe is a blatant miscarriage of justice.

This is his statement:

I just want to say it has been kind of frustrating know that I have been wrongfully convicted of not only a crime I absolutely had nothing to do with, or even having any knowledge of McGee’s (the killer) intent. But what is upsetting to my family and me even more is the fact that I was acquitted of the crime (capital murder for hire) I stood charged with and was on trial for.

But due to a judge overreaching his judicial powers by giving an unlawful, uncharged additional crime (of first degree murder) that under Virginia law does NOT constitute a lesser-included offense to the jury of my trial has made the jury verdict of acquittal meaningless. And this major Constitutional error not only is a black eye to the Virginia criminal justice system, it violated my Constitutional rights of due process, notification and a right to even present a defense that ALL American citizens have under the Constitution.

So to be having to wait almost six years for having my request for clemency granted by the governor for such a great injustice corrected sometimes becomes upsetting for my family, the thousands of supporters and me to understand.

And the fact that the killer has recanted multiple times, that he had lied and gave perjured testimony during my February 2000 jury trial due in part that he had been threatened by the Norfolk police detectives,and prosecutors. And the fact that the first judge overseeing my first trial had already ruled that McGee was not credible when testifying on behalf of the prosecution. And then to have the second judge overseeing my jury trial not believe McGee’s trial testimony, which is supported by the judge’s actions to add an additional charge of a crime I was not charged with speaks volumes of itself!

But no one can explain why I remain in prison unlawfully to this day.

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