The state of Virginia wants to execute Ivan Teleguz for a murder he didn’t commit.
Ivan was convicted in 2006 of hiring someone to kill his girlfriend, after a seriously flawed police investigation and trial. The prosecution heavily pressured its other key witnesses into falsely implicating him – both have now admitted they lied at trial. The man who actually murdered Ivan’s girlfriend was also handed a lesser sentence in return for pointing the finger at Ivan – while One of the two key witnesses, Edwin Gilkes, received a more lenient sentence for his role in the murder, in exchange for false testimony about Ivan – testimony that led to Ivan’s death sentence. Gilkes has since said he was simply scared of ending up on death row himself.
DNA evidence at the crime scene showed early in the investigation that Ivan could not have been the killer, but investigators focused on him anyway. Prosecutors at Ivan’s original trial also encouraged jurors to sentence him to death by inventing a second, fictitious murder that they claimed Ivan had also committed – a later investigation by Reprieve and Ivan’s lawyers showed that the story was a fabrication.
The Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, must urgently grant Ivan clemency.
Ivan came to the US as a young boy with his family, from a small, rural town in Ukraine – the family were threatened by the then-Communist government because they were Christians. Ivan’s sister, the youngest of the family’s eleven children, describes Ivan as a softhearted and caring big brother who went out of his way to help her find her lost cat, paid her to do small chores so she could have a little spending money as a child, and always made time to listen to her.
In prison, Ivan’s record is exemplary – he is one of the few death row inmates allowed out of his cell to have a prison job. He spends most of the rest of his time on Bible study.