Around the Novahood


Virginia’s second-most-populous jurisdiction, and the only Virginia county that is majority-people of color, Prince William County, has lacked a public defender’s office. It relied, instead on a  system of poorly compensated, court-appointed counsel to represent low-income defendants. That is about to change, in large measure due to the grass-roots movement spearheaded by Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), a Northern Virginia nonprofit composed of dozens of faith and civic organizations.

According to PWC organizers, many indigent defendants with court-appointed attorneys “didn’t feel like their appointed attorney fought for them.” The new office is effectively a professional, private law firm to counter-balance the Commonwealth’s elected prosecutor. VOICE is interviewing candidates to lead the office, with plans to be up and running this summer or fall.  

Fifty-seven years ago, in 1963, SCOTUS ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright that indigent defendants were entitled to counsel under the Sixth Amendment.


The VA GOP issued a press release calling for the resignation of Del. Lee Carter.

What did he do? He “abus[ed] his power as an elected official in Virginia to bully and intimidate law enforcement officers and threaten to cut police budgets.” This comes from a Facebook video posted by a Republican, the Chairman of Virginia Families PAC, in which Carter says, “I’m a member of the general assembly. I write the state police’s budget. They’re gonna f***ing regret it.”

What was the context for this? Carter was participating in a protest in Manassas on May 30 of George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota.  According to Carter, he was sprayed with CS gas (mace) in his left eye after questioning the reasons for the armed police presence; he further said that police tried to hit him with a flashbang–twice–as he walked away from them.

The GOP statement is posted on its website, along with a dozen others criticizing, among others, the “authoritarian” measures of Governor Northam in efforts to ameliorate the coronavirus pandemic in the Commonwealth. Oddly, the GOP website contains no announcements of the number of cases or deaths in Virginia. Nor is there any statement about the death of George Floyd. Willful ignorance may be bliss.


On Sunday, May 30, the streets and sidewalks of historic downtown Leesburg were clogged with people–over 1,500 by some estimates–protesting the murder of George Floyd, among them Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Buta Biberaj. Most of the marchers, of all ages and nationalities, wore masks in compliance with state emergency rules, and many carried signs. 

On the Leesburg Town Hall Green, participants signed a poster-sized version of a painting by local artist Gertrude Evans, depicting three people protesting police brutality. From there, participants marched through town, ultimately arriving at the foot of the Loudoun County Courthouse. Loudoun County NAACP President Michelle Thomas, Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall (D-At Large), and Leesburg Town Councilman Ron Campbell were among those who led the procession.

The Leesburg demonstration was generally emblematic of the character of demonstrations around the nation. The absence of any violence or vandalism made the event perfect.



Categories: coronavirus, crime and punishment, Issues, Local, pandemic, prosecutors, public defenders, State

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