June 4, 1982: Rebecca Lynn Williams, a nineteen year-old
mother of three, is raped and murdered in her Culpeper, Virginia,
May 21, 1983: Earl Washington is arrested in Warrenton,
Virginia, in Fauquier County, on an unrelated case-burglary
and malicious wounding. During two days of questioning by
law enforcement officials from the Virginia State Police,
Culpeper County, and Fauquier County, he confesses to four
other crimes including the Williams murder.
Nov. 2, 1983: Trial Judge F. Ward Harkrader, Jr. rules
that Washington's confession was voluntary and could be used
against him at trial.
Jan. 18-20, 1984: Washington's trial (guilt and penalty
phases), results in jury's decision to convict and impose
March 12, 1984: Sentencing hearing and imposition
of the death penalty by Trial Judge David F. Berry.
March 20, 1984: In its written order imposing the
death penalty, trial court sets execution date of July 27,
1984. Execution date subsequently stayed by the Virginia Supreme
Court pending appeal.
May 1, 1984: Washington pleads guilty to burglary
and malicious wounding and is sentenced to two fifteen-year
sentences (thirty years) to run consecutively.
May 9, 1984: Washington is sent to Virginia's death
row at Mecklenburg Correctional Center.
Nov. 30, 1984: Virginia Supreme Court affirms capital
conviction and sentence of death.
May 13, 1985: U.S. Supreme Court denies review.
July 3, 1985: Trial court sets execution date of September
5, 1985, and denies motion by trial counsel for appointment
of state habeas counsel.
Aug. 16, 1985: Washington is transferred to the execution
site, Virginia State Penitentiary in Richmond, and hears electric
chair being tested.
Aug. 19, 1985: Joseph Giarratano, a fellow death-row
inmate, and Marie Deans, director of the Virginia Coalition
on Jails and Prisons, describe Earl's plight to Martha Geer,
who is at the prison on a different case. She persuades her
firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison of New
York City, to represent Washington pro bono.
Aug. 27, 1985: A team of lawyers from Paul, Weiss,
spearheaded by Eric M. Freedman, files state habeas petition
and application for stay of execution. Stay application is
granted by Judge Lloyd C. Sullenberger nine days before scheduled
execution. Washington returns to Virginia's death row at Mecklenburg
Correctional Center. Robert T. Hall enters case.
Dec. 23, 1986: State trial court denies state habeas
petition without an evidentiary hearing.
Feb. 26, 1988: Virginia Supreme Court denies petition
July 28, 1988: Federal habeas petition filed in Eastern
District of Virginia.
Oct. 25, 1989: U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton
denies petition for federal habeas corpus relief without an
evidentiary hearing. Appeal filed.
Dec. 19, 1991: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth
Circuit remands case back to the U.S. District Court for an
evidentiary hearing on issue of ineffective assistance of
counsel for failure to investigate and introduce exculpatory
semen stains found on blanket where crime took place.
April 6, 1992: Gerald T. Zerkin enters case. District
court conducts evidentiary hearing.
July 29, 1992: Judge Hilton once again denies petition
for federal habeas corpus relief.
Sept. 17, 1993: Fourth Circuit, by a 2-1 vote, affirms
district court ruling.
Oct. 8, 1993: Fourth Circuit, by a 2-1 vote, denies
petition for rehearing. Lawyers anticipate imminent execution
Oct. 25, 1993: A DNA test done by Virginia Division
of Forensic Science on biological evidence reveals a genetic
marker that could not have come from Washington. But Virginia's
21-day rule prohibits a return to court for relief on the
grounds of newly discovered evidence. Barry A. Weinstein,
Barry C. Scheck, and Peter Neufeld enter case.
Dec.20, 1993: Washington files petition for pardon
with Governor L. Douglas Wilder.
Jan. 14, 1994: Hours before the expiration of his
term on January 15, Governor Wilder commutes Washington's
sentence of death to life imprisonment with possibility of
Jan., 2000: Washington requests that Governor James
Gilmore, III conduct further DNA testing on the biological
material previously tested by the Virginia Bureau of Forensic
June 1, 2000: Under press pressure, Governor Gilmore
grants request and orders additional DNA testing.
Sept. 7, 2000: Still without test results, Washington
files pardon petition with the governor.
Oct. 2, 2000: Governor Gilmore grants an absolute
pardon to Washington as to the capital murder conviction but
refuses to consider unrelated burglary and malicious wounding
convictions. Virginia Department of Corrections subsequently
determines that Washington would have been eligible for parole
consideration on January 25, 1989, on those charges and that
his mandatory release date is February 12, 2001.
Dec. 22, 2000: Virginia Parole Board denies discretionary
Feb. 12, 2001: Washington is released from prison
to parole supervision.