PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) — Gov. Ralph Northam has granted a full pardon to a man sentenced to life in prison in the 2002 killing of a pregnant woman and the shooting of her boyfriend. The Virginian-Pilot reports that Northam granted the “absolute pardon” Tuesday to Lamar Edward Barnes, now 40, in the slaying of Amy McRae, and the shooting of Mark King inside a house in Portsmouth.
“This absolute pardon reflects Barnes’ innocence of the convictions handed down to him in 2003, for which he has been incarcerated for nearly the last two decades,” Northam’s office said in a statement. King and McRae’s unborn baby daughter both survived. Barnes, who was then 20, maintained from the outset that he didn’t commit the crime. But following an August 2003 jury trial, Barnes was convicted and sentenced to life plus another 28 years behind bars.
In recent years, the case was taken up by the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia’s law school. Northam’s office said an investigation found that Barnes had a “corroborated alibi” at the time of the killing, but that evidence was “disregarded” during his trial. The governor’s office also said eyewitnesses who testified against Barnes, including King, later “recanted their identifications” of him.
“As his memory came back, he became more and more unsure, and then ultimately became convinced that it was not in fact Mr. Barnes who was the shooter,” said Jennifer L. Givens, a U.Va. law professor and director of the school’s Innocence Project. “He made repeated attempts before trial — and after trial — to right that wrong, and to make sure that Mr. Barnes got out of prison,” she said. “Because he felt horrible that an innocent man was behind bars.” King died in 2020 of unknown causes. After receiving the pardon Tuesday, Barnes was released from the Sussex State Prison in Waverly.