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Bobbie Morman, Jr.

Other Norfolk City Exonerations
At about 10 p.m. on August 4, 1993, a group of young men drove past Kevin Bradley’s house in Norfolk, Virginia, and one of the men in the car fired a gun three times toward the house.

At the time, Bradley, Cynthia Alcocer and Michael Altoveros were standing in front of the house, but they weren’t injured. In interviews with police, the three witnesses identified 18-year-old Bobbie Morman Jr. as the shooter.

Police arrested Morman on August 5, 1993, charging him with three counts of attempted malicious wounding, three counts of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and possession of a weapon by a convicted felon. Morman had an earlier conviction for attempted malicious wounding.

Morman’s trial in Norfolk City Circuit Court began in late November 1993. The state’s case was built around the three witnesses. Alcocer testified that Morman had fired the weapon. This differed from her testimony two months earlier at a pre-trial hearing, where she testified that she had not seen Morman’s face in the vehicle.

Altoveros testified that he “figured” Morman was the shooter, but when asked on cross-examination if he could say who fired the gun, he responded “Not exactly.”

Bradley also identified Morman as the shooter, but his testimony differed from the other witnesses. He said the shooting occurred at midnight. The other witnesses said the shooting was at 10 p.m.

Morman put on a vigorous defense. Darryl Chrismore said he was driving the car from which the shots were fired, and he said that the passengers were Edward Morman, who was Bobbie Morman’s older brother, Ivan Baretto, and Glen "Geno" Payne. Each testified that Bobbie wasn’t in the car. In addition, Payne testified that he had fired the shots. The other men in the car also said Payne fired the shots.

Morman had an alibi. A friend, Adam Perry, testified that he and Morman were playing video games at a 7-Eleven convenience store at the time of the shooting.

During deliberations, the jury asked Judge Jerome James three questions. First they asked for a copy of the trial transcript. They were told they couldn’t have one. Then they asked, “Can the person who admitted to the shooting be prosecuted or put himself in jeopardy by admitting he did the shooting?” They were told not to concern themselves with that issue. Finally, they asked how long Morman had been incarcerated prior to trial. The judge said no evidence had been presented on that issue.

The jury convicted Morman on December 1, 1993 of three counts of attempted malicious wounding, three counts of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, and one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

At his sentencing on January 27, 1994, Morman protested his innocence, telling Judge James that he planned to appeal the conviction because he had no intention of serving a sentence for a crime he didn’t do.

That brought a fiery outburst from the judge. He said: “Who do you think you’re talking to? I’ve taken time to listen to your parents and all the other witnesses. What’s your ax to grind with me? You asked for a jury trial, and you got a jury trial ... Let me tell you something, and I mean this. You read my lips. If you think you’re intimidating me, try it, because I will bring this ceiling down on you.”

Judge James then sentenced Morman to 48 years in prison. Morman appealed, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to convict and that Judge James erred in not striking for cause a juror whose relative had been the victim of a shooting. (Morman's attorney then struck the juror.) The Virginia Court of Appeals denied his appeal on February 6, 1995.

In 2014, Payne gave an interview to a Norfolk television station about the case, repeating his testimony that he, not Morman, fired the gun that night. He said that he had been able to live a full life while Morman was in prison. “I was the one that done it,” said Payne. “Let him out.”

After that interview, the Innocence Project at the UVA School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia began investigating Morman’s case and in 2016 filed a petition for a pardon on Morman’s behalf with Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

The pardon submission contained affidavits from Chrismore, Edward Morman, Baretto and Glen Payne that repeated much of their trial testimony. Each said Bobbie Morman wasn’t in the car.

In Payne’s affidavit, he said that on August 5, 1993, Edward Morman told him that his brother had been arrested for the shooting the night before. Payne said he went to the Mormans’ house. The family had already hired an attorney, and Payne told the family and the attorney that he would turn himself in because he had fired the shots and Bobbie Morman wasn’t even in the car. Payne said the attorney told Morman’s mother that Payne shouldn’t go to the police and that “we would handle it in the courtroom.”

The pardon submission also contained an affidavit from Altoveros, who said “I’m now even less confident that I was right” about his identification of Bobbie Morman as the shooter. He continued: “Geno Payne has been saying all along that he was the one who fired the gun. Tony Morman was in the car, so it’s possible that I saw him and just assumed that Bobbie Morman was in the car. We were young, it was late at night and we all did things back then that we have come to regret later in life, now that we’re older.”

Morman was released on parole on April 8, 2016, but his pardon petition stalled. McAuliffe didn’t act on the request before leaving office in 2018.

His successor, Gov. Ralph Northam, granted Morman an absolute pardon on July 14, 2021. Virginia has three types of gubernatorial pardons: simple, conditional, and absolute. Absolute pardons are granted, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth, “when the Governor is convinced that the petitioner is innocent of the charge for which he or she was convicted.”

“It seemed so incredible to us that Bobbie was ever convicted in the first place,” said Jennifer Givens, the director of the UVA program. “This is yet another tragic example of the unreliability of eyewitness identifications.”

The Virginia General Assembly enacted legislation on April 11, 2022, paying Morman $1.2 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 8/16/2021
Last Updated: 4/22/2022
County:Norfolk City
Most Serious Crime:Attempt, Violent
Additional Convictions:Gun Possession or Sale, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:1993
Sentence:48 years
Age at the date of reported crime:18
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No