RICHMOND, Va. -- The expected release of an inmate convicted in the 1979 killing of an on-duty Richmond police officer has been put on hold after several CBS 6 investigations into the case.
As CBS 6 reported last week, Virginia's official government watchdog is now investigating the decision to grant parole to Vincent Martin, who has been serving a life sentence for the murder of Patrolman Michael Connors, who was shot multiple times near the campus of VCU on Nov. 13, 1979.
Brian Moran, Virginia’s secretary of public safety and homeland security, says the there has been a number of concerns raised by Connors' family, the Richmond Police Department, and by the local Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The decision to grant Martin parole has also sparked an uproar from Virginia lawmakers.
“Because of those I believe there has now been an independent investigation begun," said Moran. "As reported by a local television station last week, parole board became aware of it, in light of an independent investigation into the process by which the parole board made that determination. They have determined to put it on hold temporarily. This will allow the removal of the cloud that has formed over this parole decision.”
Martin, a 64-year-old inmate at the Nottoway Correctional Center, was set to be released Monday, May 11, after the Virginia Parole Board voted to grant him parole earlier this year.
In a statement Monday afternoon, the Parole Board announced the temporary hold on Martin’s release due to an investigation by the Office of the State Inspector General (OSIG). The OSIG is conducting an administrative investigation into the Board's policies and process that led to the decision to grant parole grant to Martin.
Chair of the Virginia Parole Board, Tonya Chapman, who took over that role in April, the decision to delay the release has been made in an effort to ensure due diligence.
“The focus of the administrative investigation will be on compliance with Code, regs, policies and procedures, etc. in the decision-making process. OSIG will not be evaluating the ultimate decisions made by the Parole Board,” the Office of the State Inspector General said in a statement.
The temporary hold on Martin’s release, is for a period not to exceed 30 days, pending the conclusion of this investigation.
“This has been a difficult decision and was not made lightly; however, it is important to afford OSIG an opportunity to review the matters before them,” said the Virginia Parole Board in a statement. “The Board remains confident in its decision to grant parole to Mr. Martin and looks forward to the conclusion of this administrative investigation.”
Vincent Martin has been serving a life sentence for the murder of Patrolman Michael Connors, who was shot multiple times near the campus of VCU on Nov. 13, 1979.
The shooting occurred after Connors pulled over a vehicle that was traveling the wrong way down a one-way street. Inside that car were Martin and a group of accomplices who had just minutes before robbed a 7-Eleven store near the intersection of Madison and Grace, in the city's Monroe Ward neighborhood.
Connors, unaware of the robbery, was shot in the neck after approaching the vehicle. Investigators say Martin then stood over the dying officer and fired several more shots into his head.
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) called for Northam to rescind Martin's pending the completion of the Inspector General's investigation.
"For the past month, we have been in contact with retired and active Richmond Police officers with great concern about the release of Vincent Martin, who was convicted for the 1979 felony murder of Officer Michael Connors," VACP officials wrote to Northam. "Last year when Martin was reviewed for parole, his release was not recommended by the Parole Board."
The group asked Northam to "make sure that a terrible miscarriage of justice does not occur."
Del. Robert B. “Rob” Bell (R-Albemarle), Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham), House GOP Leader C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Senate GOP Leader Thomas K. Norment, Jr. (R-James City) also wrote to Northam urging the governor to stop the release.
The lawmakers cited irregularities in the parole board’s decision to release Martin as well as the circumstances of Officer Connors' murder.
“The urgency of our request cannot be overstated," the letter reads. "Absent an immediate intervention by you, Vincent Martin walks free tomorrow. We owe it to the victim’s family, to the Richmond Police Department, and to all Virginians to ensure that the process of granting parole is consistently legal, fair, and just.”