Arcane Rule Keeps Innocent Man in Virginia Prison

Recanted testimony came too late


AN INNOCENT MAN sits in a Virginia prison because of an archaic and draconian state law and balky officials in Richmond who will not move off the dime to free him.

We wrote last week about the case of Jonathan Montgomery, who was convicted in 2008 of sexual assault on the strength of testimony from a teenage girl who has now recanted. The accuser, charged with perjury, is free while she awaits trial. Mr. Montgomery, sentenced to 7 1 / 2 years, is innocent but can't get out of prison. This is ludicrous.

The immediate cause of the legal logjam keeping him behind bars is Virginia's noxious 21-day rule, which prohibits trial judges from reviewing newly discovered evidence if it is presented more than three weeks after sentencing. Exceptions are made only in the case of biological evidence such as DNA.