Thursday, April 16, 2015, will mark the eighth anniversary of the Virginia Tech rampage. The evidence of cover ups as well as what can only be called outright corruption by politicians, law enforcement officials and members of the legal profession, continues to grow.
For those who argue that it is time for the victims and families to move on, I suggest that it is impossible to move on when the people we put our trust in do not tell the truth about the death of children and spouses. When anyone loses a child, the loss is absolutely unbearable. And when people lie about circumstances surrounding mass murder the recovery is next to impossible.
Recently a member of the governor’s Review Panel published a book in which she asserts the panel felt pressure from the outset to produce a report that would not end in litigation. It was clear from the outset that the report was written in a style to prevent holding anyone accountable. The panel member’s words confirmed the worst fears that a state sponsored body investigating a state institution was a conflict of interest and resulted in a well orchestrated campaign of half truths and lies of omission.
Most recently, at a talk I gave at VCU on the Tech shooting, a man in the audience came up to me and said he had worked in the Virginia state office handling contracts. He claimed he was told to pay TriData (the firm who wrote the Review Panel’s report) an extra $75,000.00 to make corrections, despite the fact that the amount was over the state’s legal limit for follow-on contract work. He said that then-Governor Kaine’s lawyer told him to make the payment. Not only should the contract have had an “errors and omissions clause,” but the company should have been fined at least $75,000 for producing a badly flawed product.
The most grievous of all the developments is the Virginia Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the jury verdict in the Pryde/Peterson trial holding Virginia Tech liable.
The Court’s decision was unanimous. Justice Cleo E. Powell, who wrote the decision, asserted the Court was basing its ruling not on whether the school had a duty to warn, but on facts. She then got the most important fact wrong. She wrote that the investigation was in the hands of the Blacksburg Police, when in fact it was in the hands of Police Chief Wendell Flinchum of the Virginia Tech Police Department.
The truth is Chief Flinchum appears to have been the person who told school officials not to warn or lockdown after the double homicide at West Ambler Johnston Hall. His failure to follow the most rudimentary of crime scene investigaton principles apparently blocked warnings and played a role in the murder of 30 people at Norris Hall. Under oath, when asked if he spoke to school officials about warning and locking down, he may have perjured himself. He needs to explain his inaction; he needs to be held accountable.
Justice Powell’s error throws doubt on the accuracy of every aspect of the court’s actions and decisions. The Virginia Supreme Court’s integrity and objectivity is now in question.
Some say the families need to move on. What is needed is to move on and reveal the truth. What is needed is for Virginia politicians at the highest level, the state’s Supreme Court justice, members of the law enforcement community, and Virginia Tech to be completely honest and candid about the events that terrible day.