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Letters to the editor reflect the opinion of the writer(s), not the Rapp News. Comment below or by writing a letter to the editor: editor@rappnews.com

It isn't often that I hesitate to express an opinion on Rappahannock doings, but a recent court case here left me feeling that an injustice had been done to a friend of ours, and that it might be wise for me to cool off, temper my anger and perhaps find more diplomatic phrasing of my concerns. So, "here goes":

The Commonwealth's Attorney has a difficult job, but as an employee of the taxpayers, he must reassess his own judgements and publicly own up to his misjudgments and mistakes. And it is vital that the "presumption of innocence," that bulwark of any civilized modern justice system, be always foremost in the mind of all. 

In the recent case, a long time friend and a trusted employee of ours was suddenly and unexpectedly jailed on charges which appeared to me to be questionable accusations by another of her employers. She was accused of a serious felony, was jailed for nine days and faced a trial which could have resulted in a serious prison term. Our local paper, the Rappahannock News, featured the accusation and the arrest in its pages, pointedly bringing up a previous case from some years ago when our friend was charged for a similar offense. Her mistake in that earlier instance was her misjudgement in her handling of funds as a caretaker of a couple in the Town of Washington. Our friend was found guilty in that instance and was imprisoned. She surely more than paid her debt to society in that matter. 

I am not an attorney, but as an informed layman it seemed to me that the recent accusations against our friend were lame and flimsy at best. And yet, she was jailed for nine days, despite having only the Commonwealth Attorney's accusations in the local newspaper. She had to be bonded out at some expense and subsequently had to pay thousands in attorney's fees to defend herself. 

Yet when the case was tried, in front of a jury of twelve citizens of Rappahannock, after two days of testimony the jury of her peers unanimously agreed that the Commonwealth had no case. The jury came back after 80 minutes or so. After electing a jury foreman, those twelve jurors had unanimously voted "Not Guilty" on all three counts. "The County just never made a case," said one juror. "There just wasn't anything there," said another. 

So my friend and her wonderful family celebrated and cried for joy. And so did we. But the whole deal made me wonder. Twelve qualified Rappahannock adult citizens threw out the entire case after short discussion and an immediate unanimous opinion. And the prayers of her friends and family were answered. 

BUT, our friend had been arrested and jailed and photographed for the press in prison clothes. She had been publicly humiliated and now owed several thousand dollars in attorney's fees. Yet she was "NOT GUILTY,” and according to many, including the jury, she should not have been charged at all. 

The Rappahannock News, in its report of the "Not Guilty" verdict, gratuitously added to its first report that our friend had indeed been found guilty years before of a similar charge. 

The person who wrote that has only been in our County for a very brief time. Our friend was born here, raised here, and has lived here all of her life. The person who brought the charges had already moved elsewhere.

Now, I know that justice is supposedly blind, but there was never any justice in this ordeal until "a jury of her peers" immediately threw the whole business out as an obviously weak case and a genuine waste of the taxpayer's money. 

So, I ask you, who was the victim here? There was no "presumption of innocence" but an obvious "presumption of guilt" by the local "authorities." And has not my friend been unfairly punished by the time spent wrongly imprisoned and by the enormous stress on her wonderful family, and by the legal expenses incurred for her defense attorney? And guess who paid for this travesty of "justice"?

You got it. We did. We Rappahannock taxpayers. 

But I am encouraged somewhat by old truisms like, "What goes around comes around", and "The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine." 

Ben Jones

Harris Hollow



 

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