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Darrell A. Copeland

Other Virginia Exonerations
In November 2006, following a car chase that resulted in a crash, a police officer found what he believed to be an unloaded pistol under the car seat of 18-year-old Darrell Copeland, a convicted felon.

In May 2007, Copeland went to trial in Chesapeake City Circuit Court and chose to have the evidence heard by a judge without a jury. The officer testified that Copeland was in possession of the pistol. On May 2, 2007, the judge convicted Copeland of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

After Copeland’s conviction, the Virginia Department of Forensic Science determined that the gun was a replica pistol, incapable of firing, and thus not a firearm under the applicable criminal statutes.

In 2008, Copeland petitioned the Virginia Court of Appeals for a writ of actual innocence. His application was supported by the prosecution.

In August 2008, the court granted Copeland a writ of innocence. He was the first person to be granted such a writ under a 2004 law that permitted defendants to present non-DNA evidence more than three weeks after their conviction. A law was passed in 2001 allowing presentation of DNA evidence more than three weeks after conviction.

Copeland was not freed, however. He had charged in federal court with carjacking and multiple robberies. He pled guilty to the carjacking charge and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He was released from prison in 2016.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 1/16/2017
County:Chesapeake City
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2006
Sentence:5 years
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No