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Great, some moron in the House of Delegates wants a moratorium on executions and abolishment of the death penalty in Virginia…

That would be Delegate Frank Hargrove (R-55 [Hanover]) with HB296 (moratorium on executions) and HB299 (abolishment of the death penalty).

Hargrove shows his (lack of) knowledge of the Code of Virginia with this section of HB299:

Any person sentenced to imprisonment for life pursuant to this subdivision shall not be eligible for parole and shall not be eligible for any good conduct allowance, any earned sentence credits under Chapter 6 (§ 53.1-186 et seq.) of Title 53.1, or conditional release pursuant to § 53.1-40.01.

The only problem is that parole was abolished in 1994!

Admittedly, that is something Hargrove could have forgotten, except for this from his website:

Delegate Frank Hargrove believes that maintaining public safety is the first task of government. Frank was a vigorous supporter of Governor George Allen’s criminal justice reforms, which included truth in sentencing, abolition of parole, and mandatory life sentences for violent repeat offenders.

And here’s an example of someone that Hargrove believes shouldn’t be executed, Paul Warner Powell:

WARNING: EXTREMELY DISTURBING LANGUAGE/DETAILS BELOW.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

From Paul Warner Powell v. Commonwealth of Virginia, Record No. 002242 & 002243 [emphasis mine throughout]:

Powell was acquainted with Stacey Lynn Reed (Stacey) for two and a half years prior to the commission of the crimes in question. Kristie Erin Reed (Kristie), Stacey’s younger sister, described her sister and Powell as “[f]riends.” Powell, who was 20 years old at the time of the murder, had wanted to date Stacey, who was 16 years old, but recognized that she was underage and he “could go to jail for that.”

Powell, a self-avowed “racist and white supremacist,” was aware that Stacey, who was white, was dating Sean Wilkerson, who is black. Wilkerson had recently moved to another locality, but he and Stacey remained in contact. Stacey was a member of her high school’s Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps and planned to attend a military ball with Wilkerson.

Just before noon on January 29, 1999, Stacey arrived home from school early, having completed her examinations that were being given that day. Powell was waiting for her at her home when she arrived. When Powell learned that Robert Culver, a friend of the girls’ mother, would be home shortly for lunch, Powell left and returned at about 12:45 p.m., after Culver had left. When Powell returned, he was armed with a “survival” knife, a “butterfly” knife, a box cutter, and a 9-millimeter pistol.

Stacey was talking to Wilkerson on the telephone. After Stacey ended the telephone conversation, Powell confronted her about her relationship with Wilkerson. He demanded that Stacey end her relationship with Wilkerson. According to Powell, he and Stacey argued, and the argument grew into a struggle. Powell drew the survival knife from his belt and Stacey “got stuck.” Powell denied stabbing Stacey deliberately. The struggle continued briefly until Stacey collapsed on the floor in her sister’s bedroom.

Although Powell did not know whether Stacey was still alive, he made no effort to determine her condition or call for medical assistance. Powell “wandered around the house, got some iced tea, had a cigarette.” Kristie arrived home from school shortly after 3 p.m. and was met at the door of the home by Powell. Powell told her that Stacey was in her room, but moments later Kristie discovered her sister’s body in Kristie’s bedroom. She dropped her schoolbooks and began to cry.

Powell ordered Kristie to go to the basement. Kristie, who knew that Powell was usually armed, complied because she “didn’t want to die.” In the basement, Powell ordered Kristie to remove her clothes and to lie on the floor. Powell then raped Kristie, and she “begg[ed] him not to kill her.” Powell later admitted that he knew that Kristie, who was 14 years old at the time of the rape, had been a virgin.

While Powell and Kristie were in the basement, Mark Lewis, a friend of Kristie, came to the house and knocked on the door. When Powell heard the knock, he tied Kristie’s legs together and tied her hands behind her back with shoelaces he cut from her athletic shoes. Powell then dressed and went upstairs.

While Powell was upstairs, Kristie managed to loosen the bonds on her hands and attempted to “scoot across the floor to hide” under the basement steps. Hearing Powell coming back to the basement, she returned to the position on the floor where he had left her. Powell then strangled Kristie with a shoelace and she lost consciousness. While she was unconscious, Powell stabbed Kristie in the abdomen and slit her wrists and throat.

Powell returned upstairs, searching for “anything worth taking.” He fixed another glass of iced tea, which he took with him when he left the home a short time later. Powell went to a friend’s house and then drove with the friend to the District of Columbia to buy crack cocaine.

Kristie regained consciousness sometime after Powell had left her home. About 4:10 p.m., she heard Culver return home, and she called out his name. Culver discovered Kristie in the basement, called the 911 emergency response telephone number, and began rendering first aid to her. He later discovered Stacey’s body upstairs. Shortly thereafter, paramedics arrived. In response to a question from one of them, Kristie identified Powell as her attacker. Powell was arrested later that day at the home of his friend’s girlfriend, where he and the friend had gone after buying drugs.

Kristie was transported by helicopter to Inova Fairfax Hospital where she received treatment for her injuries. It was ultimately determined that the wounds to her throat and abdomen each came within one centimeter of severing a major artery which likely would have caused her death.

An autopsy revealed that Stacey had died from a knife wound to the heart. The medical examiner testified that there was a single entrance wound and two exit wounds indicating that the knife had been withdrawn, at least partially, and then reinserted into the heart. One wound path pierced the left ventricle and the other went through both the left and right ventricles, exiting the heart at the back of the right ventricle.

Stacey’s body also exhibited a number of bruises on the head, chest, abdomen, back, arms, and legs, abrasions on the face, a stab wound to the back, and a cut and scrapes on the left forearm. The autopsy further revealed that Stacey had been struck on the head with sufficient force to cause bleeding inside her scalp and in the membranes surrounding her brain prior to death. These injuries were not consistent with Stacey merely having fallen during a struggle.

The DNA profile obtained from the blood found on Powell’s survival knife was consistent with the DNA profile of Stacey’s blood. The DNA profile obtained from sperm fractions from swabs taken from Kristie’s vagina and perianal area was the same profile as that obtained from Powell’s drawn blood sample.

While in jail, Powell wrote letters to friends in which he admitted having committed the murder, rape, and attempted murder because of Stacey’s relationship with a black man. He further claimed that he had planned to kill Stacey’s family and steal the family’s truck. Powell also wrote to a female friend and asked her to “get one of [her] guy friends . . . to go to a pay phone and call Kristie and tell her [that] she better tell the cops she lied to them and tell her [that] she better not testify against me or she’s gonna die.”

Powell told another inmate that he had become angry with Stacey when she refused to have sex with him after talking to Wilkerson. Powell told the inmate that he stabbed Stacey twice and that when he attempted to cut Kristie’s throat, his knife was too dull, “[s]o he started stepping on her throat trying to stomp her throat.” To another inmate, Powell described Stacey’s killing as a “human sacrifice” and expressed satisfaction in having raped a virgin.

From Paul Warner Powell v. Warden of the Sussex I State Prison, Record No. 042716 [emphasis mine throughout]:

The following facts were presented to the jury that found Powell guilty of capital murder and fixed his punishment at death. In January 1999, Robert Culver and his fiancée, Lorraine Reed, lived together in Manassas, Virginia, with Reed’s two daughters, Stacey Lynn Reed and Kristie Erin Reed. On January 28, 1999, Powell went to the Reeds’ home. Stacey, then 16 years old, left home to go to work, and Powell remained there alone with Kristie, who was 14.

That afternoon, Kristie called her mother by telephone and informed her that Powell refused to leave the home. Kristie’s mother told Kristie to order Powell to leave.

Kristie was concerned because Powell “kept walking back and forth down the hallway looking in the rooms.”

On the afternoon of January 29, 1999, Kristie arrived home from school and was startled to find Powell in her house. She asked Powell “where Stacey was.” He replied, “she was in her room.” Kristie walked to Stacey’s room, but Stacey was not there. Then, Kristie turned to enter her own room and saw Stacey’s body lying on the floor.

Powell, who had followed Kristie to the bedroom, ordered Kristie to go downstairs to the basement. Kristie knew that Powell customarily armed himself with a knife. She had previously observed Powell with a butterfly knife and “another long knife that was in a brown pouch type thing.”

Powell forced Kristie to accompany him to the basement, where he ordered her to remove her clothes. She took her clothes off because she “didn’t want to die.” Powell told Kristie to lay on the floor, and then he raped her.

After Powell raped Kristie, he dressed himself, and he used shoelaces taken from Kristie’s shoes to tie her feet together. He also used shoelaces to tie her arms behind her back. Someone knocked on the door to the house, and Powell went upstairs, leaving Kristie naked and bound on the basement floor.

While Powell was upstairs, Kristie was able to free her hands, and she tried to “scoot” across the floor and hide beneath the basement steps. Powell returned to the basement, removed Kristie’s eyeglasses, and strangled her until she was unconscious. Powell stabbed Kristie in the stomach, and the knife stopped within a centimeter of her aorta. He slashed her in her neck numerous times, and the repair of the knife wounds required 61 sutures. She had multiple stab wounds to her neck and abdomen. She also had wounds on her wrists.

Robert Culver arrived at the home at 4:15 p.m. on January 29, 1999. He could not locate Kristie or Stacey. He went to the girls’ bedrooms and saw that Stacey’s room was in disarray. He entered Kristie’s room, turned on the lights, and found Stacey’s body on the floor. He observed blood on her body and saw that she was not breathing.

When Culver went to the basement in search of a telephone, he discovered Kristie lying naked and bound on the floor, bleeding from her neck and stomach. He saw that she had been stabbed in the stomach and her “throat was slit pretty severely, many times.” Culver found a telephone, dialed 911, and spoke to emergency response personnel. Although Kristie was experiencing life-threatening injuries, she was able to tell police officers and paramedics that Paul Powell was her assailant.

Stacey’s death was caused by a stab wound to her chest. The wound pattern indicated that the blade of the knife pierced her heart and was twisted upon withdrawal. The blade of Powell’s knife was consistent with the stab wounds.

There were numerous bruises on Stacey’s head, neck, chest, abdomen, back, arms, and legs. She suffered stab wounds in her back and arm. She also had abrasions on her left hand and wrist that were characterized as defensive wounds. Stacey’s body contained bruises on her lower neck that were consistent with someone stepping or stomping on her face and neck.

Police officers arrested Powell on January 30, 1999 at the home of a friend. The police officers also located a blue sports bag that belonged to Powell. A nine-millimeter semiautomatic pistol with a full magazine containing 10 Winchester nine-millimeter cartridges was in the bag. The bag also contained a survival knife with a five and one-half inch blade inside a black sheath and a butterfly knife with a five-inch blade. The survival knife sheath contained a dark reddish-brown stain. The DNA profile obtained from the stain on the sheath was consistent with the DNA profile of Stacey Reed and different from the DNA profile of Kristie Reed and Paul Powell. The probability of selecting an unrelated individual with a matching DNA profile at the Powerplex loci as contained on the sheath is approximately one in 1.1 billion in the Caucasian population.

After his arrest, Powell consented to several interviews with police officers. During one interview, he stated that he had been at the Reeds’ home on January 29, 1999 and that Stacey was dead because “she was stupid.” Powell told the police officers that he and Stacey had an argument because she had a black boyfriend, and Powell “didn’t agree with interracial dating.” Powell claimed that during the argument, Stacey attacked him and scratched his face, and then he pushed her to the floor. He claimed that Stacey attacked him again, and that she “got stuck” on his knife. Powell also initially denied raping Kristie.

In a second statement to police officers, Powell admitted that he raped Kristie. The detective who interviewed Powell testified that Powell stated that he had to kill Kristie because “she was the only witness and he would have to go to jail.”

The jury was also informed that after this Court’s decision in Powell’s first appeal, Powell wrote two letters to the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Prince William County, Paul Ebert. Below is the content of a letter that Powell wrote, dated October 21, 2001.

“Mr. Ebert,

“Since I have already been indicted on first degree murder and the Va. Supreme Court said that I can’t be charged with capital murder again, I figured I would tell you the rest of what happened on Jan. 29, 1999, to show you how stupid all of y’all mother fuckers are.

“Y’all should have known that there is more to the story than what I told by what I said. You had it in writing that I planned to kill the whole family. Since I planned to kill the whole family, why would I have fought with Stacie before killing her? She had no idea I was planning to kill everybody and talked and carried on like usual, so I could’ve stabbed her up at any time because she was unsuspecting.

“I had other plans for her before she died. You know I came back to the house after Bobby’s lunch break was over and he had went back to work. When I got back, she was on the phone so I went inside and I laid down on the couch. When the cab came to bring me my pager, I ran out of the house and she jumped and got off the phone and came off the porch to see why I ran out of the house like I did.

“When the cab left we went in the house. I laid on the couch again and she went to her room and got her clothes and went downstairs to do her laundry. When she went downstairs, I got up and shut and locked the back door and went downstairs. We talked while she put her clothes in the wash. We continued talking when she had everything in the wash and I reached over and touched her tit and asked if she wanted to fuck. She said no, because she had a boyfriend.

“I started arguing with her because she had never turned anybody down because of having a boyfriend.

“We started walking upstairs, arguing the whole time. When we got upstairs we went to her room and she turned the radio off. After she turned the radio off I pushed her onto her bed and grabbed her wrists and pinned her hands down by her head and sat on top of her. I told her that all I wanted to do was fuck her and then I would leave and that we could do it the easy way or the hard way.

“She said she would fuck me so I got up. After I got up, she got up and started fighting with me and clawed me face. We wrestled around a little and then I slammed her to the floor. When she hit the floor I sat on top of her and pinned her hands down again. She said she would fuck me and I told her that if she tried fighting with me again, I would kill her.

“When I got up she stood up and kept asking me why I was doing this and all I kept saying is take your clothes off. Finally she undid her pants and pulled them down to her ankles. She was getting ready to take them the rest of the way off and the phone rang. When she heard the phone she pulled her pants back up and said she had to answer the phone. I pushed her back and said no. She said that she wouldn’t say anything about me being there and I told her no and to take her clothes off.

“She tried to get out of the room again and I pushed her back and pulled out my knife. I guess she thought I was just trying to scare her and that I wouldn’t really stab her because she tried to leave again.

“When she got to me and tried to squeeze between me and the door jam I stabbed her. When I stabbed her, she fell back against the door jam and just looked at me with a shocked look on her face.

“When I pulled the knife out she stumbled a couple steps and fell in her sister’s room. I walked over and looked at her. I saw that she was still breathing so I stepped over her body and into the bedroom. Then I put my foot on her throat and stepped up so she couldn’t breath. Then I stepped down and started stomping on her throat. Then I stepped back onto her throat and moved up and down putting more pressure to make it harder to breathe.

“When I didn’t see her breathing anymore, I left the room and got some iced tea and sat on the couch and smoked a cigarette. You know the rest of what happened after that point.

“I would like to thank you for saving my life. I know you’re probably wondering how you saved my life, so I’ll tell you.

“You saved my life by fucking up. There were 2 main fuck-ups you made that saved me. The first was the way you worded my capital murder indictment. The second was the comment you made in your closing argument when you said we won’t know because he won’t tell us.

“One more time, thank you! Now y’all know everything that happened in that house at 8023 McLean St. on Jan. 29, 1999.

“I guess I forgot to mention these events when I was being questioned. Ha Ha! Sike!

“I knew what y’all would be able to prove in court, so I told you what you already knew. Stacey was dead and no one else was in the house so I knew ya’ll would never know everything she went through unless she came back to life.

“Since the Supreme Court said I can’t be charged with capital murder again, I can tell you what I just told you because I no longer have to worry about the death penalty. And y’all are supposed to be so goddamn smart. I can’t believe that y’all thought I told you everything.

“Well, it’s too late now. Nothing you can do about it now so fuck you you fat, cocksucking, cumguzzling, gutter slut. I guess I’ll see your bitch ass on Dec. 18 at trial because I’m not pleading to shit. Tell the family to be ready to testify and relive it all again because if I have to suffer for the next 50 or 60 years or however long then they can suffer the torment of reliving what happened for a couple of days.

“I’m gone. Fuck you and anyone like you or that associates with people like you. I almost forgot, fuck your god, too. Jesus knows how to suck a dick real good. Did you teach him?

“Well, die a slow, painful, miserable death. See ya punk.

“Do you just hate yourself for being so stupid and for fuckin’ up and saving me?

“Sincerely,

“Paul Powell.”

In a statement to a police officer on November 2, 2001, Powell gave the following description of Stacey’s murder:

“She walked over to and uh I pushed her back. And then she walked over to me again I think and then I pulled my knife out and you know, and she looked at me you know. I guess she thought I wouldn’t stab her or whatever. So she tried to leave and go to answer the phone. That’s that.

. . . .

“[After she got stabbed,] [s]he just looked at me for a minute you know and then you know, she . . .she was surprised and them um, I pulled the knife out, you know she stumbled a few steps, fell down in Christy’s doorway. I just walked over and looked at her. And I stepped over top of her and stepped on her throat and then stood on her throat and then stomped on her throat . . . then I stood on her throat until I didn’t see her breathing no more.

. . . .

“What I’m saying I was stepping on her. I’m saying I put all my weight on her. I’m saying that I put my foot there you know and then I lifted myself up to where I was standing on top of her. Started stomping on her throat. And then man, I just stood on her throat again until I didn’t see her breathe no more.”

Before he raped Kristie, Powell knew that he intended to kill her. In response to a police officer’s question: “Before you raped [Kristie], you knew you were going to kill her; didn’t you?”, Powell responded: “I really didn’t have a choice; did I?”

While incarcerated in jail awaiting his capital murder trial, Powell sent a letter to Lorraine Reed, the mother of Stacey and Kristie. Powell enclosed a photograph of a partially nude woman. Powell wrote:

“Lorraine,

“I was wondering if you might be able to help me think of something. I found this picture in a magazine and it kinda looks like someone I know or used to know, but I can’t think of the persons name.I think you know the person too, so I was wondering if you could tell me the name of the person this picture resembles so I can quit racking my brain trying to think of it? I would appreciate it. If you don’t know the person I’m talking about, ask Kristie or Kelly Welch because I know they know who I’m thinking of. If you talk to the person I’m talking about, please give her my address and tell her to write me.”

The partially nude woman shown in the photograph resembled Lorraine Reed’s daughter, Stacey. Powell wrote a letter to a friend while he was incarcerated. He stated:

“About when you asked me why I wouldn’t do to you what I did to Stacie, I couldn’t ever hurt you because you mean to much to me. See Stacie didn’t mean anything to me. She was a nigger lover and some of her wannabe skin head friends were supposed to kill me. That’s part of the reason why she died. Almost everything that happened in that house was planned. The only thing that wasn’t planned was trying to fuck Kristie. What was supposed to happen was, Stacie was supposed to die, and did, Kristie was supposed to die and then I was going to wait for their mom and stepdad to get home and I was going to kill them and then I was going to take their mom struck and then I was gonna go to North Carolina and knock this dude off that stole all of my clothes and everything else I owned. I had been thinking about doing it for along time but I could never bring myself to do it. I don’t know what happened to make me finally do it. I feel bad for doing it. Stacie was a good kid.”

Powell wrote, in another letter:

“Hey babe, what’s happening? Not too much here. I writing you to see if you could get one of your guy friends to do me a favor. You know that Kristie is telling the cops things and that she is going to testify against me in court. I was wondering if you could get somebody to go to a payphone and call Kristie and tell her she better tell the cops that she lied to them and tell her she better not testify against me or she’s gonna die.”

Powell sent the following letter to the Commonwealth’s Attorney of Prince William County:

“Fat Ebert,

“What’s up you fat head fucker? I’m just writing to tell you, since you want to kill me so Goddamn bad for killing your nigger loving whore, set up a court date closer than Oct. 25 so I can go ahead and get this bullshit over with and plead guilty so you can kill me and get it over with, unless you want to let me out so I can kill the rest of the nigger lovers and all the niggers, Jews, Spics and everybody else in this fucked up country that’s not white. That includes you because you area nigger loving Jewish fucking faggot. I will see you in hell bitch.

“your buddy,

“Paul Powell

“P.S. Watch your back!”

The jury viewed writings and drawings taken from Powell’s jail cell that demonstrated his hatred of people who were not Caucasian. Additionally, the jury heard evidence that Powell told police officers that he was a racist and described his violent racial views. He stated, “[e]verybody that ain’t white shouldn’t – he needs to die.” Powell had told a police officer that he wanted to purchase a gun to “[k]ill somebody. Kill a lot of somebodies . . . [j]ust for something to do.” The jury was aware of Powell’s criminal record, including three convictions for contributing to the delinquency of a minor, two larceny convictions, and three felony convictions for abduction, rape, and attempted capital murder of Kristie.

Possession of violent video games = probable cause for arrest?

GamePolitics.com: Utah Case: Are Violent Video Games Probable Cause for Arrest?

Is The Washington Post completely out of it?

The Washington Post runs a story about the valiant efforts to repeal the death penalty in Maryland: Repeal of Md. Death Penalty Still Seems Out of Reach:

Advocates of repealing Maryland’s death penalty are hopeful that New Jersey’s landmark decision to end capital punishment will provide momentum heading into next month’s legislative session. But interviews with key lawmakers suggest that a permanent repeal during the 90-day session remains a long shot.

A bid to replace Maryland’s death penalty with life without parole failed by a single vote in a Senate committee during the last regular session, which ended in April, despite high-profile support from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). In testimony before the legislature, O’Malley argued that capital punishment is “inherently unjust” and that money is wasted on appeals that could be better spent fighting violent crime.

In the months since then, repeal advocates have arranged meetings between lawmakers and well-known death penalty opponents, including David Kaczynski, brother of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber. They have hired as a lobbyist the former chief of staff to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert). They are planning several events to spotlight the issue after lawmakers return to Annapolis on Jan. 9, including a visit by suspense novelist Scott Turow, a death penalty opponent.

Yeah, sure, I’m definitely going to agree with the Unabomber’s brother…

[…]

Maryland has had an effective moratorium on capital punishment since last December, when the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, ruled that the state’s procedures for lethal injections had not been properly adopted. Five prisoners currently sit on Maryland’s death row.

For executions to resume, the O’Malley administration must issue new regulations — a step the governor has resisted. If the legislature tries to abolish the death penalty and fails for a second year in a row, pressure will mount on O’Malley to issue the rules, some lawmakers said. Miller, who supports the death penalty, said O’Malley should have done so already.

“When he took the oath of office, he swore to uphold the laws of Maryland, and the law of Maryland is now being subverted,” Miller said.

[…]

Under Maryland law, those guilty of first-degree murder are eligible for execution if prosecutors can prove at least one of 10 aggravating factors, such as killing a law enforcement officer or committing murder while in prison. Last session, Mooney expressed a willingness to reduce the number of aggravating factors and narrow eligibility for the death penalty, an idea that few senators would support.

In and of itself, unremarkable.

You know, besides the fact if you bother reading the whole article (don’t, it’s a waste of time), you’ll notice that there is a complete lack of coverage of any pro-death penalty group, any victim rights group, or anyone that supports the death penalty (except for a few members of the legislature) meanwhile the anti-death penalty groups get free advertising for a rally they’re holding!

No mention of how the death penalty has been documented to reduced the rate of homicides, ever.

And the worst part about this story is that it comes two days after the burial of a Smithsburg police officer that was murdered in the line of duty, a story that The Washington Post refused to report on.

The Washington Times, with a little over one-seventh of the daily circulation of The Washington Post, however, did manage to cover it: Funerals mark day of violence:

Hundreds of mourners and law-enforcement officers yesterday packed a high school gymnasium to honor a Western Maryland policeman slain during a night of violence in Washington County.At another Christmas Eve funeral 25 miles away in Hancock, family and friends bade farewell to Alison L. Munson, whose slaying put Officer Christopher S. Nicholson in harm’s way Wednesday night.

Douglas W. Pryor, the former boyfriend charged with stabbing Miss Munson to death, purportedly fatally shot Officer Nicholson after fleeing from Miss Munson’s apartment. He remains in custody without bail, recovering from wounds he sustained in a shootout with police.

[…]

Other speakers, including fiancee Desiree Grimes, remembered Officer Nicholson, of Sharpsburg, as a cheerful and determined young man who strove to become a police officer despite his chronic asthma.

A friend and fellow 2006 Western Maryland Police Academy graduate, Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy First Class Joel Footen said that if Officer Nicholson were alive, he “would tell us to step up, do what needs to be done.”

The funeral was held in Williamsport because Officer Nicholson graduated from the high school there in 2000.

Miss Munson’s funeral, at the Orchard Ridge Church of God, near Hancock, also was crowded. The Rev. Jeffrey Hawbaker said the small, white country church was filled with at least 100 mourners.

Miss Munson, a 31-year-old dental hygienist, and Mr. Pryor, a 29-year-old mechanical contracting worker, had two young children, a son and a daughter. They had lived together in the Smithsburg area for about 10 years until last month, when she moved into an apartment south of Hagerstown after obtaining a protective order against him, according to court records and neighbors. She was a graduate of Berkeley Springs High School in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Police say Mr. Pryor drove the children Wednesday night from Smithsburg to Miss Munson’s apartment, where he stabbed her and stuffed her body in a kitchen closet. He then drove the children back home, handed them off to a sister-in-law and shot Officer Nicholson, who was parked a short distance away, awaiting backup, according to charging documents.

Here’s a little tip to you guys at The WaPo: First, stop trying to pick fights with bloggers, stop waiting for press releases from your favorite advocacy group, go outside your office, get in your car, and do some damn reporting!

You know, the kind of stuff that made you famous back in the day: like the stuff that Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did?

And we needed a study to tell us this?

From WTOP: Study: Inmates Likely to Return After Release:

A state study shows a large number of inmates released from prison end up back behind bars.

No d’uh.

I could have told you that for free…

The study presented to the Virginia State Crime Commission says of the inmates entering the system, 42 percent have been in prison before and nearly half violated probation.

Barry Green, interim deputy secretary of public safety, says the Virginia Department of Corrections’ budget topped $1 billion for the first time this year. One way of controlling the costs would be to keep fewer released offenders from returning.

Sounds like a great idea to me.

Virginia’s rate at which released prisoners return to prison within three years is 29 percent. Green says while the number appears high, it is the eighth lowest among the 30 states that rank the statistic by that definition.

Manslaughter charge finally dismissed against Greene County game warden

About time.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Charge dismissed in death of teen:

A judge dismissed a voluntary manslaughter charge yesterday against a game warden who shot and killed a Greene County teenager during a traffic stop in January.

Robert Orrin Ham III, the first Virginia game warden charged in a line-of-duty shooting, had pleaded not guilty in August. Game wardens are sworn law-enforcement officers authorized to make arrests.

Authorities said Ham and a deputy sheriff, responding to a report that Allen Michael Cochran had abducted his girlfriend, stopped Cochran’s car on U.S. 33 on Jan. 24. When Ham tried to remove the girl, the 16-year-old driver accelerated the car and struck Ham, who then fired into the vehicle, authorities said at the time.

Cochran’s family later disputed the claim that he had abducted his 15-year-old girlfriend, saying the two were running away together and that the shooting was unwarranted. Ham was placed on administrative duties after he was indicted by a grand jury.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Ronald L. Morris and defense attorney Steven Benjamin said in court yesterday that if the case had gone to trial, it would not have resulted in a conviction.

Uh, why did you get an indictment against him then? Idiot…

“There was no crime. This was a necessary, justifiable shooting,” Benjamin said after court.

Col. Mike Bise, chief of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries’ Law Enforcement Division, said an internal investigation also found that Ham acted appropriately.

“It was an unfortunate and tragic event, but we have been confident the court would reach this decision,” Bise said.

Some more information from a prior post:

Cochran’s psychiatric history will likely take center stage as the case moves forward. Ham’s lawyers are requesting Cochran’s medical records in hopes of gaining further insight into the teen’s thinking the night of the shooting.

Court filings indicate the defense is looking for evidence that Cochran was suicidal, perhaps homicidal, when he and Ham crossed paths Jan. 24.

“It is our understanding and belief that Mr. Cochran was . . . very disturbed,” defense attorney Steven D. Benjamin said.

Two weeks before the shooting, Benjamin said, Cochran underwent a psychiatric evaluation after threatening to kill former classmates at William Monroe High School and members of his girlfriend’s family.

The night of the shooting, Ham, whose duties include law enforcement, was assisting sheriff’s deputies who were looking for Cochran in connection with the disappearance of his girlfriend, Chelsea Walker.

Authorities spotted a 1995 Chrysler with Walker in the passenger seat near the entrance to the Woodridge subdivision.

According to the defense, Ham approached the car but Cochran drove forward and struck the 24-year-old game warden, throwing him onto the hood and continuing through the intersection.

Benjamin said his client fired at Cochran only after unsuccessfully warning the teen to stop the car.

Rulings delayed in Caroline slaying case

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Rulings delayed in Caroline slaying case:

A judge postponed ruling yesterday on whether to move the retrial of a Caroline County woman convicted of killing her law-enforcement husband.

Caroline Circuit Judge Horace A. Revercomb III also delayed ruling on whether jurors could hear about a life-insurance policy that was to benefit Donna L. Blanton. The prosecution argued during Blanton’s first trial that she was in financial straits.

Blanton, 42, is scheduled to be tried again starting Nov. 29 in the October 2003 killing of her husband, Virginia State Police 1st Sgt. Taylor V. Blanton.

She was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to 28 years in prison during her first trial in 2005. But the Virginia Court of Appeals this year found that gender wrongly played a role in how Caroline Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Latney Jr. selected which potential jurors he did not want to hear the case.

During a pretrial hearing yesterday, Revercomb said he will first try to seat a jury, rather than ruling beforehand on the defense request to move the trial out of Caroline.

Blanton’s attorney, Mark Murphy, told the judge a defense-hired investigator conducted an informal survey of 100 county residents and found that 44 percent of them did not believe Blanton could get a fair trial in the county. He also said 90 percent of those surveyed knew Blanton had been convicted of murder and that those people also knew the retrial was granted because of a legal technicality related to the jury.

Bull. Are you saying that all 100 people that you surveyed knew who Donna Blanton was and there was a trial? I find that hard to believe when only around 25% of people in the county bother to come out to vote (6,811 or so voters in the last election, 15,345 or so registered voters, 27,000 or so people in county).

And 90% bothered to follow the trial from arraignment, trial, to appeal? Again, bull.

I’m sure I could “conduct an informal survey of 100 county residents” and get results that 90% of “county residents” have never heard of Donna Blanton!

“The prejudice against Ms. Blanton is widespread in the citizenry,” he said.

The truth is prejudice?

Murphy also said widespread media coverage, some of which he said included inaccuracies, could hinder his client’s chances of getting a fair trial in Caroline.

Eh? What inaccuracies? Please provide a list.

Latney countered that the survey was unscientific.

Alright, I agree with Latney for once…

Court officials have summoned more than 175 potential jurors for Blanton’s new trial, far more than for her first trial.

Blanton, who did not testify during her trial, told police an unidentified man broke into the couple’s home before dawn on Oct. 16, 2003, shot her 46-year-old husband in the couple’s bed while their children were at home and then fled.

She told investigators she fired at the fleeing killer, but police found no sign of a break-in or footprints on the dew-covered grass, and she quickly became a suspect.

Nice one Kiran. Stick it to Murphy!

Witnesses sought in Raquel Hunter case

From The Free Lance-Star: Witnesses sought in shooting case:

Two men are believed to have been with Lashawn Montque Monroe Saturday night when a teenager was shot in the head and killed in Caroline County.

Monroe, 22, was later charged with the murder of 16-year-old Raquel Hunter of Ruther Glen and was also charged with possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. At his arraignment yesterday, a preliminary hearing date was set for Jan. 15, 2008. He requested a court-appointed attorney, but one has yet to be assigned.

A search warrant filed yesterday in circuit court says Monroe told police he traveled in a 1993 Dodge Caravan with two other people to the Madison Ruritan Club, where the shooting occurred.

[…]

These recent charges are not the first for Monroe in Caroline County. He had a 2004 concealed weapon charge following stabbings and shootings at a party. That charge was later dropped.

And he has convictions in General District Court for trespassing on private property and littering.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Latney has refused to discuss the cases. Court records do not say why the weapons charge was dropped.

Caroline man’s trial in manslaughter case expected to be postponed

From The Free Lance-Star: Caroline man’s trial in manslaughter case expected to be postponed:

The two-day jury trial of a Caroline County man charged with manslaughter scheduled to start today is expected to be postponed until next year.

According to a court order last week, Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Latney asked the court to appoint a “substitute attorney” in the case of John Wayne Peck, 27, because “it would be improper for him to act.”

Judge Horace Revercomb then appointed Spotsylvania Commonwealth’s Attorney Bill Neely to the case and the jury was called off.

Neely said yesterday the reason Latney asked to be excused from trying the case was because of complaints.

“Apparently, the victim’s family was upset in the handling of the case,” Neely said.

Latney’s motion came before he lost last week’s race for re-election to Tony Spencer, who takes over the office in January.

Latney refused to talk about why he would not prosecute Peck.

Neely said that after the election, he called Revercomb and asked if Spencer could be put on the case. There should be a decision in Circuit Court today.

Peck was charged with first degree murder in October 2006 after his hunting buddy, Jerry Curtis Beverly, was fatally shot in the chest. Latney later reduced his charge to manslaughter.

Sheriff Tony Lippa said Peck and Beverly had been hunting and drinking before getting into an argument. Beverly was later found dead.

Comment that was left:

Lesa said,

November 14, 2007 at 1:48 pm

I am the victim’s daughter in this case. I want to first say Thank you for your concern for my family. We are not at all disappointed about having to wait until next year to have the case tried. We fought hard to get Mr. Latney off my father’s case. So today was a bittersweet day. We were happy to have Mr. Latney off the case, but never the less it does not change the fact that my father is not here.
I feel strongly that with Mr. Spencer as Commonwealth victim’s rights will no longer be trampled on.

No bond for Lashawn Monroe

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: No bond for slaying suspect:

Lashawn Monroe, 22, accused in the slaying of a 16-year-old Saturday outside a Ruritan clubhouse in Caroline County, will stay locked up at least until he gets a lawyer.

At a hearing yesterday morning on charges of murder and illegal use of a firearm in Caroline Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, Judge Phillip U. Fines ordered Monroe held without bond at least until he is represented by a lawyer.

The next scheduled hearing for Monroe is Jan. 15.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Weise said the state will oppose any bail for Monroe.

The body of the victim, Raquel Hunter, was found on the ground outside the Madison Ruritan Club hall in Ladysmith about 11 p.m. Saturday. The hall had been rented for a birthday party for another teen. That party started about 7 p.m. and was just ending when the shooting occurred.

Monroe and a juvenile who was injured were later located by police at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg and Monroe was arrested, authorities said.

Monroe told an investigator that he fired shots during the incident, according to a court affidavit filed yesterday in connection with a search warrant issued in the case.

Authorities searched a 1993 Dodge minivan that they say Monroe was riding in when he arrived at the birthday party. Investigators were looking for cartridge casings, gunshot residue, DNA, fingerprints and other potential evidence.

They seized several clothing items and a front passenger-seat headrest cover.

“Monroe also told [an investigator] that he had a firearm on his person while in the vehicle and did fire shots during the time of the incident,” an investigator wrote in the affidavit, which also revealed that Hunter had apparently been shot in the head.

After talking with Monroe, who had sought medical treatment at the Fredericksburg hospital for what police described as a grazing gunshot wound, authorities stopped the Dodge minivan with two other people inside it. Court papers described the occupants as possible witnesses or accomplices.

Caroline Sheriff Tony Lippa Jr. said Monday that Monroe was the only suspect at that time. Lippa could not be reached for additional information last night.

Also yesterday, Caroline Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey Latney Jr. said he decided in 2005 not to prosecute Monroe on a concealed-weapons charge because “the evidence wasn’t there.”

And it only took you five hearings and 228 days to figure it out…

Great lawyering there…

That charge arose from a 2004 Labor Day weekend melee at the Dawn Progressive Center. Several suspects were charged in that incident, in which eight people were shot and two stabbed.

“If I could have prosecuted, I would have,” Latney said.

Just like you would have prosecuted Irvin Stevens, Saleem Stevens, Sherenda Stevens, Edward Arrington, Jermaine Shepherd, ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

Also according to records from Caroline General District Court, Monroe was charged in March with trespassing, was subsequently found guilty and fined $50 plus court costs of $76.

Latney lost his campaign for another term in last week’s election to Anthony G. “Tony” Spencer, who accused Latney of dropping too many charges and making too many plea deals.

Update on Shelia Boone

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: Woman pleads guilty to fraud [emphasis mine throughout]:

Shelia Mae Boone pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of federal bank fraud for writing one $1,000 check to herself on the account of the lawyer for whom she worked.

That lawyer is Harvey Latney Jr., who works part time as the commonwealth’s attorney in Caroline County in addition to his private law practice. Boone was his only employee.

U.S. District Court documents on Boone describe a period of at least two years when she was forging checks on bank accounts set up by Latney for money he was holding for clients and estates he was handling.

The single-check bank fraud charge replaces the three original counts against the 49-year-old Caroline resident — one of identity theft and two of bank fraud for allegedly forging two checks, one for $86,786.54 and the other for $185,000.

A statement filed with her guilty plea yesterday states that she stole a total of $92,930.42, including the $1,000. That leaves at least $178,000 not accounted for by Boone’s plea agreement or statement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael R. Gill declined to comment on the case.

So, where’s the money?

Boone’s lawyer, Arnold Henderson, said he agreed with federal prosecutors that the single bank-fraud count “was the appropriate charge to bring” against his client.

“I don’t know what’s truly missing from Mr. Latney’s accounts,” Henderson said. “My investigation does not reveal that Ms. Boone had any involvement above [the $92,930.82].”

Well, that answered my question…

George Chabalewski, counsel for the Virginia State Bar, confirmed last month that the bar has opened an investigation of Latney because of the missing money. Chabalewski would not say who initiated the bar complaint or provide other details.

Craig S. Cooley, the lawyer representing Latney in the State Bar complaint, said no suggestion of impropriety or dishonesty by Latney has emerged in that investigation or information developed in the Richmond Circuit Court case against Boone. The Richmond charges were dropped in favor of the federal case.

Good one, Harvey. Get the guy that beat you in a murder case to represent you before the bar. How’s that reimbursement fund going Craig?

Cooley said Boone stole from Latney and from some of his clients.

“Her responsibility is substantially more than $93,000,” Cooley said.

And John Ames acted in self-defense when he confronted someone with two firearms and shot the person four times, right?

Boone’s statement says she wrote a number of checks on Latney’s bank accounts without his authorization or knowledge. She deposited some of the checks and cashed others, all for her personal use.

The two checks she was initially charged with forging were deposited into her account. Both were drawn on an account holding funds from the estate of Florence C. Williams, who died in 2002. Latney was the executor of the estate.

Members of the Williams family had been complaining at least since last year about how long Latney was taking to settle the estate. One of the city’s commissioners of accounts started looking into the complaints and eventually discovered money was missing.

Authorities have said they believe Boone kept Latney in the dark by erasing voicemail messages left for him by the commissioner of accounts, by accepting summonses to court on Latney’s behalf and not telling him about them and by writing letters forged with his signature in response to questions about the Williams estate.

Bank fraud carries a maximum possible sentence of 30 years, but Boone’s penalty is likely to be less when she is sentenced Feb. 8 by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson.


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