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Paul Crum, Jr.

Other Virginia Exonerations
On November 23, 2014, a customer at a convenience store near Clintwood, Virginia, called 911 and said that a man named Paul Crum Jr. appeared to be intoxicated.

Officers with the Dickenson County Sheriff’s Office would later say they chased Crum as he drove recklessly and tried to avoid being stopped. Eventually, they said, he pulled into his property, turned off the car lights, and attempted to hide the vehicle behind his house. Crum, who was 54 years old, was arrested two days later and charged with felony eluding. During the investigation, Crum was said to have made threats against the deputies.

Three weeks later, on December 16, 2014, Crum’s stepmother called the sheriff’s office and said that Crum had said he wanted to drive down to the county seat of Clintwood and shoot the sheriff and several deputies. The sheriff’s department executed a search warrant for Crum’s house that day and found several guns and evidence of a recent firing of a gun. Crum was arrested and charged with attempted capital murder and obstruction of justice.

The Commonwealth’s Attorney for Dickenson County dismissed the attempted capital murder charge on July 28, 2015.

On October 22, 2015, Crum pled guilty in Dickenson County Circuit Court to felony eluding and felony obstruction of justice. Two months later, Judge Henry Vanover sentenced him to 10 years in prison on the obstruction conviction and five years, suspended, on the eluding conviction.

The Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed his conviction on February 23, 2017.

On December 6, 2017, Crum filed a hand-written pro se petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the Virginia Supreme Court. He claimed that his trial attorney had provided ineffective representation by advising him to plead guilty to obstruction of justice without properly investigating whether his actions met the statutory definition, which required a person to knowingly impede or intimidate an officer, judge, witness or juror.

“Mr. Crum did not intimidate or impede the sheriff and or his deputies,” his petition said. “Nor is there any PROOF indicating otherwise. Mr. Crum made a statement to his father, which was overheard by his stepmother. There was no intimidation or impediment implied or intended.”

In the habeas petition, Crum also said he was unaware at the time of his plea that his attorney had entered into an agreement with the prosecutor where Crum would plead guilty to obstruction and in exchange, the state would dismiss the attempted murder charge. In addition, he noted, neither side disclosed this agreement to Judge Vanover, and the judge never asked whether such an agreement existed.

The attorney later told Crum, “Because it was an oral agreement, there was no agreement or other document for you to get a copy of.”

At sentencing, Crum said in his petition, the state again made no mention of a plea agreement, telling the judge that the attempted murder charge was dismissed because of a lack of evidence to support the charge.

The state initially opposed Crum’s petition, arguing that he pled guilty freely and voluntarily. “A reasonable attorney could have concluded that it would have been more beneficial for petitioner to plead guilty to felony [eluding] and obstruction of justice rather than to face potential conviction for attempted capital murder of a police officer,” the state said.

After an evidentiary hearing, the state changed its position, agreeing with Crum that his attorney was negligent in advising him to plead guilty to the obstruction charge when his actions didn’t meet the statutory definitions.

On November 27, 2019, the Virginia Supreme Court granted Crum’s habeas petition and granted him a new trial, citing the attorney’s failure to properly investigate the obstruction charge.

The court also vacated the eluding conviction because it was “inexorably joined” with the obstruction conviction.

Prior to the court’s ruling, Crum had been transferred from a state prison to the Dickenson County Jail. He was released from the jail on January 7, 2020. On January 7, 2021, prosecutors dismissed the obstruction charge, and Crum pled guilty to the eluding charge, receiving a sentence of six months in jail.

On April 11, 2022, the Virginia General Assembly declared Crum to have been wrongfully imprisoned on the obstruction conviction and approved paying him $298,000 in compensation. The legislation noted that Crum was now sick with cancer and that, including his time in jail, he had lost five years of his freedom.

Crum died on July 24, 2022.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 12/21/2022
Last Updated: 12/21/2022
Most Serious Crime:Obstruction of Justice
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2014
Sentence:10 years
Age at the date of reported crime:54
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No