Let’s take a closer look at the efforts in Virginia General Assembly by Delegates Bill Janis (R-Goochland County) and Charles Poindexter (R-Franklin County) to delay or kill the reappointment of Franklin County Circuit Judge William Alexander. Alexander was the presiding judge appointed by the Virginia Supreme Court to oversee the Pryde and Peterson trial because all the local judges recused themselves. Judge Alexander initially ruled there was enough evidence of gross negligence that the suit against several current and former Virginia Tech officials, including school president, Charles Steger, could go forward. That ruling may not have gone over well with the right wing glitterati of Virginia’s body politic, some of whom argue no one can be held responsible for someone else’s actions. Therefore, Seung Hui Cho, and only Seung Hui Cho, is responsible for the mass killings at Virginia Tech. The fact that school and police officials turned a blind eye to Cho’s mental illness and threatening behavior is, to them, immaterial. (It should be noted that the gross negligence claim was removed by Alexander just before the trial began in 2012.)
The problem with those who argue that no one can be held responsible for what someone else does, is the failure to take into account the concept of “foreseeability,” a legal principle that says if the warning signs are readily apparent, and individuals who are aware of those signs do nothing, then those individuals can be held responsible for their inaction. If you look at the number of warning signs at Virginia Tech they are overwhelming—I have spelled them out in detail in previous posts. What more of a warning do you want than a professor threatening to resign unless a student (Cho) is removed from her class because she fears for her safety and the safety of her students? Subsequently, Judge Alexander’s ruling may have been viewed as a serious blow to the state and the school.
The Roanoke Times reported on the grilling Judge Alexander received during the re-appointment hearings and his opponents may have seized another issue to delay or stop the judge’s reappointment in order to mask their real motive. It appears the issue they chose was Alexander’s decision to release a grand jury report after the indictment of Franklin County Sheriff Ewell Hunt. The sheriff was indicted on charges of keeping improper records about the employment of his daughter.
Delegate Janis has publicly acknowledged that the judge had the authority to release the report, which the judge did in response to a motion filed by the special prosecutor in the case, Pittsylvania County Commonwealth’s Attorney, David Grimes. If Judge Alexander had the right to grant the motion, then what is Delegate Janis doing other than playing politics?
Ultimately, Judge Alexander was reappointed and the lawsuit filed by the Pryde and Peterson families went forward. (To be continued)