After more than 10 years behind bars and accused of murder, Justin Wolfe thought Thursday was the day he would go home a free man. But a last minute ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will keep him in custody for now.
"We had prepared him for this," said Kimberly Irving, Wolfe's attorney.
Wolfe was convicted of orchestrating the shooting death of 21-year-old Danny Petrole back in 2001.
Detectives say Petrole was a marijuana supplier and Wolfe ordered the hit to avoid paying back the money he owed him.
U.S. District Judge Raymond Jackson overturned the conviction in 2011 -- claiming prosecutors withheld evidence in the case and coerced testimony from a key witness.
Jackson ordered prosecutors to retry Wolfe in 120 days or release him.
Last week, Jackson ruled that because prosecutors didn't meet the deadline, he ordered Wolfe released by 5 p.m. on January 3. The stay came down within an hour of that.
"We would have preferred for it not to be stayed, but we have every reason to be hopeful," says Irving. "We believe Judge Jackson's ruling was correct and we're confident that will be the decision of the Court of Appeals as well."
Petrole's father, a federal criminal investigator for more than 30 years, says he thinks the stay was appropriate.
"I believe Justin Wolfe was involved in my son's murder, just like the original jury concluded," he says.
Dan Petrole Sr. says he doesn't condone his son's activities from 11 years ago, but he feels in time, his son would have taken a different path.
Petrole Sr. says he has forgiven Wolfe, who was just 21 years old, when his life and his son's life changed forever.
"I feel sorry for his (Wolfe's) mother and his family, but at the same time, we miss Danny every day. Justice needs to prevail," Petrole says.
The Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the case later this month.
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