The Commonwealth of Virginia this week attempted to right a wrong, and declared Earl Washington, Jr. innocent of a rape and murder that DNA evidence determined that he didn't commit. Even though this evidence was uncovered six years ago--and another man was convicted of the crimes--a special prosecutor in the case insisted for years that Washington was still a suspect. That's right--the prosecutor, James Camblos, would rather see an innocent man convicted than admit that he had erred in the case. (This might have something to do with the fact that Camblos once acted as a defense attorney for the real killer, Kenneth Tinsley). At one point, Washington was only days away from execution for a crime he didn't commit.Today, a reader who calls himself Factchecker commented on my original post:
This would be a chilling story if our transitional fossil had bothered to check his facts and make sure what he was reporting was accurate. James Camblos was not the original prosecutor of Earl Washington. As a matter of fact Mr. Camblos wasn't even a prosecutor when Mr. Washington was errouneously convicted in Culpeper (not Albemarle where Mr. Camblos is the chief prosecutor). When the case was returned to Culpeper after Mr. Washington was released, Mr. Camblos was selected to special prosecute any potential retrial. It quickly became evident that the real suspect was Mr. Tinsley, a man that Mr. Camblos had defended when he worked as a defense attorney before his election to Commonwealth's Attorney. For Mr. Camblos to continue the investigation and prosecution would have been an ethical violation, so he appointed his deputy (Richard Moore) who then went on to successfully prosecute Mr. Tinsley. The only reason Mr. Camblos could not come out and declare Mr. Washington's innocence and Mr. Tinsley's guilt was his ethical obligation due to a conflict of interest from his previous job defending Mr. Tinsley on an unrelated matter. To have done otherwise could have resulted in disciplinary action against Mr. Camblos. I would suggest that next time you decide to besmirch a public official, that you at least check your facts before writing inflammatory rhetoric. This type of behavior is exactly why bloggers get a bad rap. If you are going to pretend to be a journalist, at least act like one.First, I don't believe I've ever claimed to be a journalist; I merely comment on news items from other sources, and in this case, the sources were clearly linked. My original post does say that Mr Camblos was a special prosecutor, but incorrectly implies that the original error was committed by Camblos. This is not true--the original prosecutor on the case was John Bennett. I apologize for the inaccuracy, and I'll amend the original blog post to reflect the facts.
But Factchecker's comment prompted me to dig a little further into the matter. Again, I have no special knowledge of this case; I'm not a journalist--just a guy with a computer with access to Google. Here's an excerpt from an article from the Newport News Daily Press (summary here on the Daily Press site, complete article here):
Tinsley, who remains in prison on the rape conviction, is considered a suspect, said James L. Camblos III, an Albemarle County prosecutor who was appointed in August to review the case for state police. But so is Washington, he said this week, noting that he couldn't rule out that the two may have worked together. "There are a lot of crimes that are committed by more than one person, but you get physical evidence from only one of them," Camblos said.The date on the story is March 18, 2004, four years after Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore pardoned Washington. Indeed, as Factchecker states, Camblos stepped down from the case, but only after Washington's attorneys filed a suit to have him removed. Factchecker would have us believe that Camblos knew that Tinsley was the murderer, and was doing his duty as a defense lawyer by not proclaiming Washington's innocence; if that were so, it seems to me that a simple "No comment," would have been sufficient, and not a fabricated theory of how Washington might have been involved. But let us assume that Camblos, and Bennett, and all the police involved in Washington's trial and near-execution were acting in good faith. In that case, mistakes were made, and an innocent, but not very smart, man confessed to a crime he didn't commit. He was days away from execution.
Washington's lawyers dispute Camblos' theory of two attackers - before she died, Williams said she was attacked by a lone black man with a beard, according to police records.
Hall also criticized how state police were reviewing the case. Camblos once represented Tinsley as he appealed his rape conviction in 1985. When asked about his history with Tinsley, the prosecutor said he had no memory of it. Camblos removed himself from the case anyway, handing it over to his deputy, Richard Moore, this past week.
And that was exactly my original point.