The Innocence Project at the University of Virginia School of Law helped Joey Carter, who served 25 years after being convicted of a Norfolk, Virginia, murder, receive an absolute pardon Tuesday.

Gov. Ralph Northam granted the pardon — the second in less than a month for an Innocence Project client. The cases, involving unrelated crimes, were both out of Norfolk.  

Joey Carter and Phyllis Lewis
Joey Carter is pictured with his girlfriend, Phyllis Lewis. Courtesy photo

Carter was convicted in the 1989 stabbing murder of Juan Nunez-Reyes based on the eyewitness identification of a neighbor, who reported two men leaving the scene with a briefcase. Carter received two life sentences plus 30 years on the charges of first-degree murder, attempted robbery, robbery and statutory burglary. He was released on parole in 2016.

“There was no physical or forensic evidence tying Mr. Carter to the murder; the Commonwealth instead relied solely on tainted witness testimony obtained by disgraced former Norfolk Detective Robert Glenn Ford and his partner,” the Innocence Project wrote in its petition for absolute pardon. “Instead of taking time to sufficiently investigate the murder, or critically evaluate witness testimony, the Commonwealth permitted Detective Ford to elicit false witness testimony that wrongfully implicated Mr. Carter in a crime he did not commit.” 

Ford was sentenced in 2011 to more than 12 years in prison for taking bribes related to police casework. He was recently released.

Jennifer Givens is director of the Innocence Project at UVA Law. Photo by Jesús Pino

The Innocence Project, which gives law students hands-on experience in a yearlong for-credit clinic as well as a separate student pro bono effort, investigated Carter’s case, and in a 2018 affidavit, the neighbor recanted her testimony. Professor Jennifer Givens, director of the Innocence Project, and attorney George Brandley ’14, then an associate with Davis Polk and now an assistant U.S. attorney, filed the request for absolute pardon that same year.

Northam noted in his order that “Mr. Carter was an unfortunate victim of Norfolk Detective Glenn Ford, who used his official capacity to extort witnesses in order to yield high solvability percentages.”

Northam granted another Innocence Project client, Bobbie Morman Jr., an absolute pardon in July.  

“It is particularly telling that both pardons were issued to men convicted in Norfolk, where Ford spent his career as a detective,” Givens said. “Based on multiple investigations of Norfolk cases, Ford’s decades-long history of misconduct and influence have resulted in a significant number of wrongful convictions.”

The Innocence Project said Ford was involved in other cases they are pursuing.

Carter’s absolute pardon will allow for a complete restoration of his rights and the ability to seek compensation.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.