Vindictive prosecution claim leads to review of murder plea

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WASHINGTON, Va. (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a lower court to review the case of a northern Virginia drug dealer who says his guilty plea to a 2001 murder was coerced by vindictive prosecutors.

Justin Wolfe was just 19 when he was accused of murdering another dealer, Daniel Petrole, to escape a $60,000 debt. Wolfe, who spent several years on death row, has seen his case bounce through the courts for nearly 18 years.

A federal judge tossed out a jury's death sentence in 2012 and accused prosecutors of misconduct. A different prosecutor retried Wolfe and in 2016 he admitting having Petrole killed. He was sentenced to 41 years in prison.

Wolfe now says he pleaded guilty only because prosecutors brought even more severe charges against him than were originally filed.

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