Letter: Unsure that justice was served

Regarding the case of Timothy Overton [“Firearm charge amended, man given probation,” Aug. 22], having been present in the courtroom, I, too, was appalled to witness the proceedings unfold in our Rappahannock Circuit Court.

Timothy Merwin Overton had already been convicted of both brandishing a firearm, as well as assault, in Rappahannock General District Court. His appeal to the Commonwealth seemed weak at best; as I understand it, his own admission led to the initial trial’s guilty verdict.

Now, post appeal, Overton returns to California free and clear of his brandishing and assault charges, carrying only a trespassing charge. This is an extremely weak charge, a slap on the wrist, basically. To illustrate the weakness  of this charge, my friends in the suburbs, for example, receive a trespassing charge when their dog poops on someone else’s lawn and they miss the clean-up opportunity.

Regarding the proceedings in the courtroom, I would first like to point out that Judge Jeffrey Parker opened the appeal proceedings with a statement of concern that there were “other matters on the 9 a.m. docket.” The effect on the participating parties, in my opinion, could be inferred to be a tacit encouragement to speed up the process. The lack of adequate time to review the important evidence, hear from potential witnesses, etc., may at times prevent justice from being carried out:   Justice forestalled is justice denied. I have serious questions regarding whether or not what I observed was an example of just that.

Second, in my discussions over the past weeks with Virginia attorneys not affiliated with this county, there was agreement that it is very rare for a case not to be tried when a witness is present and willing to testify. Since the witness/victim was present and willing to testify in this instance, why was this case not tried? Was this just a situation of a perfect storm, or is there more going on here?

Finally, I understand that Rappahannock is a small pond, and people in our justice system in this county have to learn to work together over many years. I know, as do many other residents, that our present Commonwealth’s Attorney happens to have a longstanding friendship with the person Overton chose to hire as counsel. In fact these two “opposing” attorneys were observed driving away in the same vehicle after the trial! While there is no harm in that, it doesn’t look good. Does their friendship get in the way of, or simply appear to get in the way, justice being served?

I would hope that in the future more professionalism would prevail, as well as a sense of fair-handed justice. As a community, let’s pay more attention.

Laura Skauge

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