Wednesday, May 17, 2017


In the conclusion of the decision, Justice Powell wrote:  “Assuming without deciding that a special relationship existed between the Commonwealth and Virginia Tech students, based on the specific facts of this case, as a matter of law, no duty to warn students of harm by a third party arose.” 

But in fact, as I have already shown through her use of English, Justice Powell did admit that a special relationship exists between Tech and its students and therefore there was a duty to warn. The opening sentence of the conclusion is wrong, just as she and the court are wrong on some of the facts of the case. There is no doubt—Virginia Tech had a duty to warn the staff, faculty, and students on the morning of April 16th.

The Virginia Supreme Court’s judgment is the latest in a long series of decisions refusing to recognize the responsibility of a business proprietor, in this case Virginia Tech, to protect “its invitees from unreasonable risk of physical harm.” If that is the case, then you have to ask if schools do not have a responsibility to warn then why do they advertise themselves as a safe learning environment, why do they have police forces, why do they have elaborate and expensive warning systems, why do they warn and close down when a murderer is close by or there is mold on the campus?

The state’s defense is so weak and so full of holes that Justice Powell had to play with or ignore evidence and accept the state’s argument without question, and most troubling she showed no intellectual curiosity when there was evidence that a key witness in the trial may have perjured himself. The most plausible explanation for the court’s miscarriage of justice is that the decision is politically motivated; a decision designed to protect members of the Virginia Tech administration from liability.

Justice Powell, by introducing false evidence, broke the law. When she introduced erroneous information about who was in charge of the investigation on April 16, 2007, she attempted to re-write history. There is a case for obstruction of justice and in the process a civil rights violation—denial of the Pryde and Peterson families’ right to a fair hearing in a court of law. Furthermore, Justice Powell’s actions raise serious doubts about the integrity of the Virginia Supreme Court and whether or not that court decides on ideology rather than the law. (To be continued)

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