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Judge delays verdict in workplace altercation

A Suffolk general district judge has delayed the verdict in an assault case after getting assurances from the defense attorney, a member of the General Assembly, that lower court judges can do so, The Virginian-Pilot reports.

Judge James A. Moore delayed judgment for a year in a case brought by a church secretary against a minister. The secretary claimed the minister, unhappy with her leaving early one day, came around her desk and choked her. Her mother, who works at the church, backed her story. The minister’s wife, also present that day, said her husband never went around the desk and didn’t touch the secretary. A total of nine witnesses appeared, including Sen. L. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, who was a character witness for the defendant.

According to the account in the Pilot, Moore said “he wished the General Assembly gave lower court judges the power to delay verdicts.” Del. Kenneth Melvin, D-Portsmouth, represented the defendant. He told Moore that “judges have the power inherently” to delay verdicts.

The Virginia Court of Appeals offered a different point of view three weeks ago. In Gibson v. Commonwealth, the appeals court found that in the absence of explicit legislative authority, judges can’t defer judgment in a criminal case. In the Gibson opinion, Judge Jean Harrison Clements listed the offenses in which judgment can be deferred; assault was not on that list.

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