Jury Recommends Life in Prison for Wesley Earnest

Reporter: Jeremy Mills l Videographer: Jemon Haskins

(10:10 p.m.) Amherst County, VA - He had a second chance to prove his innocence.

But Friday night, a jury again found Wesley Earnest guilty of killing his wife back in 2007.

The jury recommended a maximum sentence of life in prison.

There was a thought the defense might have a chance at an acquittal because of the much publicized Taco Bell defense, where a Chesapeake fast food worker provided an alibi for Earnest the night his wife was killed.

In the end, the jury didn't buy it.

"We're absolutely pleased with the verdict, period," said Wes Nance, the prosecutor on the case.

After nine days of trial, the prosecution again got the verdict it was hoping for.

"But twice now, a jury has spoken and in our system that means something," said Randy Krantz, the Bedford County Commonwealth's Attorney. "We believe justice was done, obviously we believed the jury reached the right verdict and set the right sentence."

The family of Jocelyn Earnest is also pleased with the outcome.

"You know, in a situation like this, no one wins but we are happy for justice for Jocelyn," said Laura Rodgers, Jocelyn Earnest's sister.

So why didn't the Taco Bell alibi of Wayne Stewart work for Wesley Earnest?

The defense says the answer is simple.

"Because of the fingerprints, because I think the fingerprints are the trump card in this case and I think they'll continue to be the trump card," said Joe Sanzone, Wesley Earnest's attorney.

"I'm glad that the jury was able to consider all of the evidence and determine that Mr. Stewart's testimony wasn't a key factor in reaching a guilty verdict," Nance said.

Of course, those fingerprints were found on the staged suicide note and linked to Wesley Earnest.

He will be sentenced on January 25th.

The judge does not have to follow the jury's recommendation of life in prison, but most of the time, they do.

(8:34 p.m.) A jury has recommended life in prison for Wesley Earnest.

(7:08 p.m. Friday) Amherst Co., VA - A jury has found Wesley Earnest guilty of murder in the death of his wife Jocelyn. The verdict just came down in Amherst County court.

AP - The jury deliberated for about four hours Friday before finding Earnest guilty in the fatal shooting of his wife, Jocelyn, in 2007.

Earnest was first convicted of killing his wife in April, but a judge declared a mistrial in July because the jury had seen journal writings it wasn't allowed to see.

Prosecutors said Earnest drove 200 miles from his home in Chesapeake, shot his wife in the head at her Bedford home and left a typed suicide note.

Earnest's retrial was moved to Amherst County with jurors chosen from Nelson county. It began November 8.


(7:00 p.m. Friday) Amherst Co., VA - A verdict could come very soon in Amherst County, where the jury has spent four-and-a-half hours deliberating in the Wesley Earnest case.

The jury has given an indication there close to a decision. When bailiffs asked them what they wanted for dinner, the jury said they didn't want any food. They prefer to just work straight through.

Remember, the first trial in Bedford County took about five hours for the jury to return a verdict. We thought this one would take a little longer because it seems like there's a little more to consider.

Of course the big thing is Thursday's revelation that Wesley Earnest has an alibi for the night his wife died.

A worker at Taco Bell in Chesapeake testified he remembers serving Earnest Tacos on Wednesday, December 19th, 2007.

That alibi was a popular subject in Friday's closing arguments. The defense told the jury it definitely represents reasonable doubt.

Prosecutors say the employee was manipulated and they hoped the jury would not be manipulated as well.

We have received some clarification about why the Taco Bell employee did not testify in the first trial. We're told his mother was shielding him from his subpoenas because she didn't want him taking part in a murder trial.

ABC 13 will stay in the courtroom until a verdict is reached. Stay with ABC 13 News at for updates.


(11:50 a.m. Friday) Amherst Co., VA - The prosecution has wrapped up its closing argument in the Wesley Earnest murder retrial. The defense has yet to give its argument.

We could have a verdict sometime Friday.

We know for sure, the jury will get the case Friday afternoon. In the first trial, it took about five hours to reach a verdict. So, if that formula holds true, we'll know the outcome sometime tonight.

During closing arguments, the prosecution again focused heavily on their one piece of physical evidence: the two fingerprints left by Wesley Earnest on the alleged suicide note.

Prosecutors say it's outrageous to believe anyone else wrote that note.

As expected, the defense is relying heavily on the alibi they now have: the Taco Bell employee who says Earnest was in Chesapeake the night Jocelyn Earnest was killed.

In a bit of new testimony Friday morning, we learned that Wesley Earnest reportedly broke into Jocelyn's home and made entries on a timeline she had done for her counselor. He made entries claiming he had been a very good husband.