Robert Davis receives pardon

Robert Davis received a conditional pardon from Governor Terry McAuliffe Monday. Robert Davis received a conditional pardon from Governor Terry McAuliffe Monday.

Robert Davis stepped outside the walls of a prison as a free man today for the first time since he was arrested at gunpoint nearly 13 years ago. Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a conditional pardon in a case that experts have called a textbook case of false confession.

After being released from Coffeewood Correctional Center in Mitchells, Davis, 31, said Monday afternoon that he was “elated.”

“Words can’t describe it. If it weren’t for that man there fighting for me (pointing to his lawyer, Steve Rosenfield), I wouldn’t be out right now, ” Davis said before getting choked up.

Asked about the first thing he wanted to do after being released, Davis didn’t hesitate: “I want to go hug my mother,” he said.

Today is an especially happy day for Davis’ mother, Sandy Seal—it also happens to be her birthday.

“I’m so grateful it’s my birthday and my son is coming home,” Seal said via phone. She was waiting at a friend’s house to be reunited with her son.

The crime was one that rocked Crozet. On a chilly February 19, 2003, morning, firefighters raced to a home on Cling Lane in response to a reported fire. Upon entering the charred remains of the house, they made a much more gruesome discovery—Nola “Ann” Charles,41, bound with duct tape,  throat slit and face down in her toddler son’s bunk bed. A charred knife protruded from her back. Her three-year-old son William was found dead in her room from smoke inhalation.

Two suspects, Rocky Fugett, 19 at the time, and his 15-year-old sister, Jessica, were arrested and charged with murder within two days. The Fugetts named two other Western Albemarle High School students as accomplices, including then-18-year-old Robert Davis. After holding the other student in juvenile detention for several months, police dropped charges, citing insufficient evidence.

Davis was arrested February 22 and, starting around 2am, subjected to five hours of interrogation by former Albemarle police officer Randy Snead, whom Davis knew as a school resource officer. Shackled in a chilly room, he denied involvement in the murder dozens of times. It was only after five hours that he asked the fateful question, “What can I say I did to get me out of this?” according to a transcript of his interrogation, which C-VILLE posted on YouTube earlier this year.

His case has gained the attention of experts in false confession, including the Center on Wrongful Convictions of Youth at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, where a professor there, Laura Nirider, has called Davis’ confession “one of the most coercive I’ve ever seen.”

The idea of confessing to a crime one didn’t commit is hard to grasp, but there are those who are particularly susceptible to doing so. UVA false confession expert and law professor Brandon Garrett has identified juveniles and the mentally disabled as more prone to do so, as are those who are exhausted and drunk.

“The interviews in false confessions I looked at lasted over three hours,” said Garrett in a 2011 interview. “If someone is exhausted, they think if they just go along with the interrogation, they can clear it up later.”

Because of the confession and the threat of testimony by both Fugetts saying he was there, Davis entered an Alford plea in September 2004, maintaining his innocence while acknowledging the prosecution had enough evidence to convict him. He was sentenced to 23 years in prison, of which he’s served nearly 13 years.

Rocky Fugett pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder in November 2005, and was sentenced to 75 years. Jessica, initially found incompetent to stand trial, did stand trial, was found guilty of two first-degree murders, and sentenced to 100 years in 2006.

Both Fugetts have since filed affidavits admitting that they lied about Davis’ involvement—Rocky in 2006 and Jessica in 2012..

In 2011, Rosenfield filed a hefty clemency petition package with then governor Bob McDonnell, and it lingered until his last day in office, when he denied the petition. Deputy Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Tonya Vincent later revealed the McDonnell administration had never investigated the case. When Governor Terry McAuliffe took office in 2014, Rosenfield sent a second clemency request.

Virginia’s track record on false confessions is not stellar. Earl Washington Jr. spent 18 years in prison and came within nine days of execution after giving a false confession to the rape and murder of a Culpeper woman in 1982. After another man’s DNA was linked to the crime, Governor Doug Wilder commuted his sentence to life in prison. Washington served another six years in prison until Governor Jim Gilmore pardoned him.

In the notorious case of sailors known as the  Norfolk Four who falsely confessed to a brutal 1997 rape and murder, when exculpatory DNA came to light Governor Tim Kaine refused to grant full pardons and instead conditionally freed them in 2009 while requiring them to register as sex offenders and felons.

Rosenfield praised McAuliffe. “The governor stepped up when Bob McDonnell didn’t,” he said. “The McAuliffe administration spent two years investigating this case and concluded Robert deserved a pardon.”

“People will know now it’s true,” said Sandy Seal. “Robert didn’t do this.”

Updated 9:32pm.

Posted In:     News

Tags:     , , ,

Previous Post

Augusta County schools closed Friday for safety

Next Post

2015 Year in Review



Our comments system is designed to foster a lively debate of ideas, offer a forum for the exchange of ad hoc information, and solicit honest, respectful feedback about the work we do. We’re glad you’re participating. Here are a few simple rules to follow, which should be relatively straightforward.

1) Don’t call people names or accuse them of things you cannot support.
2) Don’t direct foul language, racial slurs, or offensive terms at other commenters or our staff.
3) Don’t use the discussion on our site for commercial (or shameless personal) promotion.

We reserve the right to remove posts and ban commenters who violate any of the rules listed above, or the spirit of the discussion. We’re trying to create a safe space for a wide range of people to express themselves, and we believe that goal can only be achieved through thoughtful, sensitive editorial control.

If you have questions or comments about our policies or about a specific post, please send an e-mail to editor@c-ville.com.

27
Leave a Reply

avatar
25 Comment threads
2 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
16 Comment authors
Doctor LTerri GuerreroLuz Nievesbee weinmj Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Vinnie Vega
Guest
Vinnie Vega

Snead is a serious POS. He knew that kid was innocent.

Melissa McDaniel
Guest
Melissa McDaniel

I agree. I hope he reads these posts and sees how horrible he is. He should be sorry for what he did.

Melissa McDaniel
Guest
Melissa McDaniel

Agree.

Melissa McDaniel
Guest
Melissa McDaniel

Randy Snead—SHAME ON YOU!!! Sad that you would do anything including “Lie” to get what you want…a false confession. You give cops a bad name. Robert clearly needed representation from the start and you did not provide it. Randy, you are no different than some of the cops who have killed people unjustly. I am glad that someday you will get what you deserve…clearly Robert did not get what he deserved and was put in prison unjustly. I hope your career is ruined.

infidel1000
Guest
infidel1000

Saw about this case on “Dateline Extra.” One of the worst cases of jurisprudential and police injustice I’ve ever seen. Randy Snead is a scumbag and a criminal for what he did. But even worse is that lowlife piece of garbage Bob MacDonald who skated on corruption charges and is the real criminal who should be receiving his daily raping courtesy of the US prison system. A “good Christian” who doesn’t care a whit about a poor dumb kid who didn’t realize the gravity of the charges against him or the ramifications of his confession. Thanks to his attorney and… Read more »

brent
Guest
brent

These cops, prosecutors and judges need to go to prison for life. They are committing the worst of crimes.

Softballumpire
Guest
Softballumpire

He did the best to his abltitiers no he lied and he knew he lied and wanted to put someone behind bars whom was innocent this is why i have trust in courts, justice system

sgarcata
Guest
sgarcata

along with ex-governor McDonnell – what a sorry excuse for a man.

sgarcata
Guest
sgarcata

Cambios… another sorry excuse for a man.

sgarcata
Guest
sgarcata

How does law enforcement expect respect from citizens when they behave like this… totally disgusting behavior.

Gina Lee
Guest
Gina Lee

I just watched this on MSNBC, Officer Snead should be ashamed of himself. Please tell me this POS isn’t in law enforcement any longer. I felt physically sick listening to this interrogation. Just disgusting Snead!!

Bradley Bunch
Guest
Bradley Bunch

If I were Mr. Davis, I would be seeking restitution for wrongful conviction and imprisonment… I WOULD BE SEEKING AT LEAST 3 TO 5 MILLION FROM THE STATE GOVERNMENT! I WOULDN’T STOP UNTIL THE DAY I DIED! RANDY SNEAD, BURN IN HELL YOU BASTARD! MAY THE DEVIL TORMENT YOUR SOUL FOR ETERNITY AS YOU BURN IN THE HOTTEST PITS OF HELL!

IJustWantTruth
Guest
IJustWantTruth

If I were an elected official, I would make exonerations and pardons a publicity channel. Seems like a no brainer. But in today’s climate it’s such a taboo thing for some reason.

Bradley Bunch
Guest
Bradley Bunch

I’m hearing the song, “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor,” by Drowning Pool in my head right now….

Iliad
Guest
Iliad

Hmm, I doubt he can read.

Iliad
Guest
Iliad

How many times have you heard of a police officer going to jail for anything, extracting false convictions is a tip of the iceberg. Look how many blacks and latinos have been killed in the last few years, while the officers walk away, at most getting fired, but generally just off duty till things quiet down. They have a license to kill, justly or unjustly.

bee wein
Guest
bee wein

The Police and the Prosecutors MUST BE HELD RESPONSIBLE. Not only in Roberts case, which by the way, the prosecutor is just as bad as the Officer!!! but IN EVERY CASE! for which they hide evidence as well as acts that should be against the law. IT’S OUTRAGEOUS that they are protected as a representative of the People. They (Robert Sneed) and others NEED TO GO TO JAIL 5 years for every year they put an innocent person behind bars. I’ll bet ya’ they won’t manipulate and take advantage of the innocent as easily as they do! I HATE this… Read more »

bee wein
Guest
bee wein

And the only reason one of those Police Officers lie to get a confession, is because they’er just too INCOMPETENT in doing the Jobs! They’re a joke to the rest of the world! No wonder Trump is they’re President! It’s the beginning of the end of an empire. So Sad!!

bee wein
Guest
bee wein

Great Idea!

bee wein
Guest
bee wein

Oh Palezze, the Prosector should be JAILED! He’s incompetent and that district should know it. He needs to be BENCHED for life!! Idiot!

Luz Nieves
Guest
Luz Nieves

Parents unjust incarceration is alive and well in the US… TEACH YOUR CHILDREN ABOUT THE CORRIPTION AND THE LOWLIFE, CONCIOUSLESS COPS and prosecutors ThAT WORK IN OUR CRIMINAL JUSYICE SYSTEM!

Terri Guerrero
Guest
Terri Guerrero

Robert Davis please sue Randy Snead and the city or county of your conviction. PLEASE, you deserve it. Randy Snead used his power to manipulate you into confession. He took many years of your life that you cannot get back. Rosenfield you are a hero for supporting and believing in this man. We need more of you in that profession.

Doctor L
Guest
Doctor L

McDonnell was indicted and found guilty on corruption charges, but later won an appeal, he is a sorry excuse for a human even haven reached an Army Reserve rank of LTC in Medical Supply. What a disgrace.

Doctor L
Guest
Doctor L

I feel sorry for these bastards Cambios, Snead & McDonnell. One day they will be judged as they judged others. They are incapable of seeing truth. Hell is their destination.

Doctor L
Guest
Doctor L

I had a complaint put on my record from fellow Officers that not only couldn’t see truth but helped to spread lies before my exoneration. Ignorance and denial controls their behavior. I thought about suing them but I found no person wanting to go after the FHP.