Last-ditch court hearing today for innocent Ukrainian Ivan Teleguz facing execution in Virginia

May 16, 2012

A Ukrainian prisoner will make a last-ditch attempt to convince a US court of his innocence today, after the prosecution’s key witnesses admitted to lying in his original trial.

Ivan Teleguz was sentenced to death for hiring men to kill his girlfriend, based on the evidence of two key witnesses in 2006. Both men have since admitted that they were pressured by the authorities into lying in exchange for a lesser sentence, and to avoid being deported back to Eastern Europe.

The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia is scheduled to hear oral arguments today. Lawyers for Mr Teleguz will argue that Ivan’s case should be remanded back to the District Court to hear evidence of his innocence and to consider whether Mr Teleguz’s previous lawyers were ineffective for failing to raise claims of his innocence at an earlier stage.

Mr Teleguz’s case bears a strong resemblance that of Justin Wolfe in 2009, where a witness recanted his trial testimony that Wolfe had hired him to commit the murder. The federal court eventually found evidence of government misconduct so extensive and fundamental that the court called it “abhorrent to the judicial process,” and ordered all of Wolfe’s convictions vacated.

Mr Teleguz fled the US as a child with his family to escape religious persecution in the Communist-controlled Ukrainian region of the former Soviet Union. Ukrainian officials have expressed grave concern about his case.

Commenting, Reprieve’s Death Penalty Director, Sophie Walker said: “It is appalling that Virginia is pressing on with Mr Teleguz’s execution when the prosecution’s case against him has clearly collapsed. Virginia must not hide behind technicalities when an innocent man’s life is in the balance; its authorities must think again, and let the courts consider the strong evidence that Ivan is innocent.”


1. For further information, please see Reprieve’s website or contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082

2. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.