Unexpunged: Judge rejects Balfour's request
Raelyn Balfour, the mother whose infant son died when she left him in the car while she went to work at the Judge Advocate General's School, was back in the same court today where she was acquitted by a jury of involuntary manslaughter in January to ask that her record be expunged.
Balfour's criminal history with the Virginia State Police shows that she was charged with second-degree murder and criminal neglect in the March 30, 2007, death of nine-month-old Bryce, her attorney, Dana Slater, told the court, although she was ultimately prosecuted for–- and acquitted of–- involuntary manslaughter.
With jurors voting to acquit after just 90 minutes and at least two of them alleging afterward that tax dollars were wasted putting Balfour on trial, her attorney alleged that the record could endanger Balfour's security clearance in the Army Reserves, which she has to have as a senior non-commissioned officer.
"The issue of her security clearance is a red herring, and whether or not her record is expunged, [military] regulations require that she reveal it," argued Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman. "That's going to happen no matter what."
Chapman also pointed out that Balfour voluntarily works to educate the public about the dangers of children left in cars, and has participated in television interviews about what happened. "I think that's laudable," he told the court. However, the court and police records "will be the only record of this child."
Judge Edward Hogshire agreed with the prosecution. "There wasn't a dry eye in the courtroom," he said of the manslaughter trial over which he presided. But the wide publicity the case drew, and Balfour's public educational efforts, which "I think are to her credit," did not measure up to a "manifest injustice," a standard that has to be met to warrant expunging her record.
Balfour is concerned that her military security clearance could be determined by a person sitting in an office reviewing her record and influenced by the autopsy reports and the emotional details of her baby's death. "The military holds you to a much higher standard than the civilian world," she says. And without the military clearance, Balfour, who's served for 19 years, believes she would lose her pension and benefits.
She gave birth to another son, Braiden, April 15. "I don't let him out of my sight," she says. "I don't trust myself. Even when I know he's not in the car, I check and recheck." Her husband, Jarrett Balfour, is a contractor in Iraq.
For Balfour, the anguish over Bryce's death has not lessened. "Every day I think about it," she says. "I feel responsible about that. I feel responsible that my husband is in Iraq because of the large legal bills. I feel responsible that he's only seen his son for 10 days since he was born."
Balfour says she's "disappointed" that a crime for which she was tried and acquitted remains on her record, but she vows to continue– through an organization called Kids in Cars– to educate people about the dangers of children left in cars.
And while she considers an appeal of today's events she notes, "The worst has already happened."