Charlottesville Breaking News

Power check: The vanishing jury trial in Virginia

Many people think trial by jury is a bedrock of American government, but according to statistics from the Virginia judicial system, fewer than two percent of our state's criminal cases are now resolved by jury trial. What a loss.

Along with the ballot, jury service is about the only way the average citizen can have a direct and immediate impact on the government. Juries are part of our system of checks and balances, especially as a barrier to a prosecutor's almost unbridled discretion to determine who gets charged with what.

The idea of limiting government power goes back to early English Common law, when juries were seen as the only protection standing between an average citizen and the reach of the king. Our Founders considered the right to a jury trial so fundamental they enshrined it in the Bill of Rights.

In my experience as a prosecutor, I've seen juries bring a broad range of experience, skills, and common sense to the task. Especially with a diverse jury, the result is a kind of collective wisdom. They take their duty seriously, pay attention throughout the trial, and use their combined judgment to achieve justice in each individual case.

Back in 2008, in the case of the woman prosecuted for accidentally leaving her baby to die in a hot car, a member of the jury commented– after a quick 12-0 acquittal– that tax dollars...

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Quick turnaround in Greenbrier

8/31/11

Frank Ferrari to Stefan Young, 1650 Garden Court, $178,000, Albemarle

Redus VA Housing LLC to Margaret Costa, 1533 Wickham Pond Road, $415,000, Albemarle

AG Green LLC to Richard Lehne, 111 Loma Lane, $125,000, Albemarle

James & Jean Doran to Peter Edmunds, 709 Exton Court, $189,000, Albemarle

Catherine Garth to Veronica Deighan, 825 St. Clair Avenue, $172,500, Charlottesville

Sunningdale Ventures, Inc. to Noah Goodall & Trish Edington, 2732 McElroy Drive, $215,000, Charlottesville

Dickerson Homes & Development LLC to James Cox & John Little, 902 Rockland Avenue, $290,560, Charlottesville

Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. to John Wegner, 978 Rock Creek Road, $55,000, Charlottesville

James Pierce to Catherine Darden, 1638 Meridian Street, $148,000, Charlottesville

Virginia Cassidy to Robert & Florence Lockman, 1280 River Chase Lane, $380,000, Albemarle

Belvedere Station Land Trust to Mason & Jennifer Brugh, 712 Belvedere Boulevard, $546,551, Albemarle

Regions Bank to Dickerson Home & Development LLC, TM 90-7, 0.175 acres & TM 90-9, 0.168 acres, $150,000, Albemarle

John & Roxie Clark to Gwendolyn Hall, 805 Stonehenge Avenue, $150,000, Charlottesville 

9/1/11

Airport Office Center LLC to ATNA Too LLC, TM 32-48A, 0.868 acres, $550,000, Albemarle

Ronald Viejo & Stephen Cadogan t...

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The week in review

Most accommodating: City officials agree to extend the permit for Occupy Charlottesville in Lee Park until October 27, and waive the $25 fee. Previously, camping had not been allowed in the city park.

Worst casualty of the sex offender registry: Edgar Lee Coker, 20, is arrested at an Orange County High School football game for being on school property. Coker was arrested for a 2007 sexual offense involving a 14-year-old girl, who has recanted her story, WINA reports. Coker served time and later graduated from Orange High as a star athlete, apparently unaware his permission to be there had been revoked. The girl and her mother, as well as UVA's Innocence Project, are working to get Coker off the registry.

Youngest alleged sex offender: Jonathan Shifflett, 18, of Crozet, is charged October 18 with having carnal knowledge of a child between 13 and 15, according to the Newsplex.

More sex crimes with a minor: Jennifer N. Heatwole, 24, of Waynesboro is sentenced October 19 to 12 months in jail on two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor by having sex with a 16-year-old Verona boy, the News Leader reports...

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Sperry Marine prepares to cut local jobs, again

It appears that employees at Charlottesville-based Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine will be facing another round of layoffs. According to company officials, employees were notified on October 19 of plans to eliminate a total of up to 800 positions at the company's Electronic Systems sector facilities in Maryland and elsewhere across the U.S. by the end of January. The majority of the job eliminations are expected to occur at the company's Maryland locations.

Back in May, 60 local Sperry Marine employees were let go, and another 26 lost their jobs in June. Prior to each wave of layoffs, employees were offered a "voluntary separation" option, i.e. buyouts, ahead of "involuntary separations" by a set deadline. Indeed, the same option is being offered to Sperry employees as part of the October 19 announcement. 

"Eligible employees will receive details of the voluntary separation program in the next few days with the voluntary separation program to be completed by the end of the year," says Alleace M. Gibbs spokesperson at the Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems sector headquarters. “Should these voluntary efforts not fully address the staffing situation, we will initiate an involuntary reduction to ensure our headcount is consistent with...

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Love's medical records: Should hearing be closed?

In a rare agreement with the defense, Commonwealth's Attorney Dave Chapman said he'd like a November 7 hearing on motions concerning the medical records of slain UVA student Yeardley Love closed. Attorneys for alleged killer George Huguely have filed motions seeking Love's medical records and were in Charlotesville Circuit Court October 26 for a brief hearing.

"In light of the sensitivity of the issue, the hearing on the merit of the motions should be in camera," said Chapman. 'We need to do anything to minimize the information out there in order to have an impartial jury from this community."

"We want everyone on the same page to avoid multiple hearings," said defense attorney Rhonda Quagliana, in anticipation that the prosecution will file motions to quash subpoenas for Love's medical records and prescriptions from health-care providers.

In a hearing in December, Judge Robert Downer agreed Huguely's attorneys could see records relating to her use of Adderall, which was found in her blood, but would not allow "a fishing expedition."

Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire said the November 7 hearing will determine what is being sought and why, and whether the hearing should be closed or in open court.

The former CourtTV network, now called In Session, has filed a request to put three cameras in the courtroom. Huguely's attorneys ask that moti...

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