The State Of Virginia spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to assure that Peter Odighizuwa’s rights were protected and that he got a fair trial. A major law firm, whose partners oppose the death penalty, came to Odighizuwa’s aid. The spending of this time and money is exactly the way it should be in our democracy. A life hangs in the balance—even if it is the life of a murderer. No stone should be left unturned, no expense spared to ensure a fair trial. But what about the lives of the victims and their families? Neither the state nor the “prominent” law firm representing Peter Odighizuwa did anything to ensure that a seven-year-old the life of a seven year old whose mother had just been gunned down was put back in some semblance of order.
Indeed, according to some sources, the state paid over $100,000 to the law firm of Turk and Groot for Odighizuwa’s defense. But, when Angie’s parents wanted copies of the court proceedings, they were charged 10 cents a page. As if the loss of their daughter wasn’t enough, Buchanan County wanted to squeeze every last dime out of the Dales.
Time and time again before the Dales family questions went unanswered, or promises to get back to them were unfulfilled. Rather than seek the truth, law enforcement officials and the prosecutor in Grundy seemed determined to do what was best for the Commonwealth of Virginia and not what was best in pursuit of truth, justice, and the rights of the victim.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the whole ordeal leading up to Peter Odighizuwa’s trial was the family’s dealings with the Commonwealth’s Attorney. On first impression, she exuded sympathy for the Dales’ loss. And, I’m sure her expressions of sympathy were sincere. But, having sympathy for a murder victim’s family and being disingenuous are not mutually exclusive.
Death Penalty Off the Table
The Dales were repeatedly assured that the Commonwealth’s Attorney was going for the death penalty, but she did not. Indeed, from the outset, the Dales were strongly pushing the death penalty. Dean Sutin’s and Professor Blackwell’s families (and possibly the law school), however, apparently wanted life in prison. In the meetings that took place with the Commonwealth’s Attorney, Angie’s parents had the distinct impression that they were being asked to go along with agreements that had already been reached. In the final analysis, after repeated assurances that the death penalty would be pursued, the Dales were called in and told a deal had been struck for life in prison—there would be no trial.
In the time since the shooting, the answer that is emerging from the mountains of red tape, the legal mumbo-jumbo, the stonewalling, the silence—is that victim’s families have few if any rights to answers. If this impression is true, how can the average citizen believe “in the system?” If “what is best for the Old Dominion” is decided in smoke filled back rooms and then put ahead of the needs of individual citizens, how can anyone believe in “rule by law?” (To be continued)