I have always taught my students that our judges and justices, despite their personal leanings (conservative or liberal) would, in the end, let the facts and evidence of the case guide their decisions. I have been terribly wrong.
As some of you probably know, the Pryde and Peterson families, parents of the students killed at Virginia Tech, refused to settle with the state. They filed a lawsuit, not to get money, but to get people under oath and to bring the facts out into the open.
The trial was a devastating indictment of Virginia Tech. On March 14, 2012, a jury awarded the two families $4 million each. But Virginia has sovereign immunity and the judge had to reduce the award to $100,000 each.
The money was not the issue; it was never the issue. The two families wanted to get truth out and the school’s incompetence exposed.
Then-Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli appealed the decision to the Virginia Supreme Court, one of the most conservative state supreme courts in the nation; a court that believes there are next to no situations where a person or organization can be held responsible for someone else’s actions.
I felt the case against the school was so overpowering that even the Virginia Supreme Court could do nothing else but uphold the jury verdict. Indeed, it is not common for any Supreme Court to overturn a jury verdict. But in what appears to a politically motivated action, the Virginia Supreme Court did just that, and in an error-ridden decision that broke the law, overturned the ruling.
It is against the law for a Supreme Court justice to introduce false evidence into a case or the review of a decision. But that is exactly what Justice Cleo E. Powell did. On October 13, 2013, Justice Powell and all the Court Justices, in a unanimous decision, signed off on a decision overturning the jury verdict.
Page two of that reversal contains a critical factual error. Justice Powell wrote that on the morning of April 16, 2007, "Although officers from the Virginia Tech Police Department were the first on the scene, the Blacksburg Police Department led the investigation." That is not true.
The Virginia Tech Police Department under Chief Wendell Flinchum was in charge. There is a legal agreement between Blacksburg and the school stating, that the police department (Virginia Tech) requesting assistance will retain control of the investigation.
I have a letter from Blacksburg Police Chief Kim Crannis stating the investigation was conducted in accordance with the agreement. I have that agreement. I also have read the five volumes of the trial and both Chief Crannis and Chief Flinchum testified under oath that Chief Flinchum was in charge.
I believe Justice Powell has broken the law, obstructed justice, and violated two Canons of the Canons of Judicial Conduct for the State of Virginia. They are Canons 1 and 2.
A. A JUDGE SHALL UPHOLD THE INTEGRITY AND INDEPENDENCE OF THE JUDICIARY
An independent and honorable judiciary is indispensable to justice in our society. A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining and enforcing high standards of conduct, and shall personally observe those standards so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary will be preserved. The provisions of these Canons are to be construed and applied to further that objective.
Although judges should be independent, they must comply with the law, including the provisions of these Canons. Public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary is maintained by the adherence of each judge to this responsibility. Conversely, violation of this Canon diminishes public confidence in the judiciary and thereby does injury to the system of government under law.
I am not accusing Justice Powell of lying, but by writing a decision containing a factual error of this magnitude (involving the worst school shooting in this nation’s history), she has done irreparable harm to “an independent and honorable judiciary [which] is indispensable to justice in our society.” She has violated Canon 1. If Justice Powell were a student in one of my classes, I would flunk her.
A JUDGE SHALL AVOID IMPROPRIETY AND THE APPEARANCE OF IMPROPRIETY IN ALL OF THE JUDGE'S ACTIVITIES.
A judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.
It is against the law to introduce false or wrong facts into court proceedings. By wittingly or unwittingly allowing a factual error into her decision, Justice Powell has, at minimum, been complicit in the violation of the laws of the State of Virginia. This is tantamount to the impropriety of the first order and does not promote “public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.” Furthermore, Justice Powell’s decision casts serious doubts on the integrity, thoroughness, and objectivity of the Supreme Court of Virginia. The decision should be withdrawn and the verdict of the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Virginia should be reinstated.
This error is important because, as stated above, it is against the law to introduce false evidence into any court proceeding. It is important because the Virginia Supreme Court has re-written history. The Blacksburg police chief did not have the authority to warn and lockdown the campus. Powell’s decision alters the historical record, obscuring the fact that Virginia Tech Police Chief Flinchum failed in his duties to the school, faculty, staff, and students.
I have read the five-volume transcript of the Pryde and Peterson trial proceedings and nowhere is there reference to Chief Crannis being in charge of the investigation.
Below is an example of the testimony, taken directly from the trial transcripts, stating that Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum was in charge of the investigation:
Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum's testimony that he was in charge of the investigation:
Q: I want to be clear about this, this was a Virginia Tech police investigation. Is that correct?
A: It was, yes.
Q: And you were in charge and you were responsible.
A: I was responsible, yes. ...
Blacksburg Police Chief Kimberly Crannis's testimony that Flinchum was in charge of the investigation:
Q: This was a Virginia Tech investigation, right?
A: Yes, it was.
Q: And Chief Flinchum was in charge?
A: Yes, he was.
Q: But you were providing support as you just indicated?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: The conclusion that you tentatively reached with respect to a domestic homicide that you just testified to, was that a topic of conversation between you and Chief Flinchum?
A: Yes, it was. ...
(To be continued)