RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Several people convicted in Richmond drug cases are being set free all because of an investigation into a former detective who helped put them behind bars. So far, three drug convictions have been vacated by a Richmond judge. A fourth case will be heard in February, and more cases are under review.
The entire case around former detective Jason Norton revolves around his signature on search warrants. On the warrants, officers swear to tell the truth in order to get permission to search cars, homes, even people.
However, according to Richmond's Commonwealth's Attorney, Michael Herring, there are series issues with Norton's paperwork. "It was enough for us to take action, and our findings were similar to, if not mirrored the findings from the justice department."
Earlier this year, a federal judge vacated three convictions in drug cases tied to Norton.
So far, Herring's office is working to void four other convictions for "inconsistencies" and "irregularities" that call into question the "integrity" of those search warrants. It is believed Norton was cutting and pasting the same information over and over for different confidential drug informants.
Herring says "scores" of cases are being reviewed now. He did not put an exact number on it. He adds there is no search warrant problem in some of the cases under review, but Norton's credibility could cause problems. "They involve cases where the arrest might have been the product of an encounter between detective Norton and the defendant. Where there was no other police officer witness to corroborate what detective Norton said, and because his credibility has now been tarnished, because of the search warrant cases, we don't know that we can have confidence in the pure Norton street encounter."
Overall, he says his office is trying to do the right thing. "These were people who were factually guilty, but there was a procedural defect in the process that got the case to trial."
He says protecting the integrity of the legal system and process could be more important than the convictions. "Hopefully, the people whose charges and convictions are being vacated will take advantage what now amounts to a second chance," Herring adds.
Norton has not been charged with a crime. He's currently working at the Hopewell Sheriff's Office. We reached out to him for comment, and have not heard back.
A special prosecutor out of Virginia Beach says he is working with Virginia State Police and is still actively investigating Norton.
Copyright 2015 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.