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. This 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.
In prison, Ivan’s record was exemplary – he was one of the few death row inmates allowed out of his cell to have a prison job. He spent most of the rest of his time on Bible study.
Ivan was scheduled to be executed on the 25th of April 2017. However, the Governor of Virginia granted him clemency, permanently halting his execution. In granting clemency, the Governor cited the fact that the prosecution introduced fabricated evidence about another murder in order to secure a death sentence.
Ivan’s case shows that together we can help save lives, but there are many more prisoners who still need our help.