Lawyers talk (and write) endlessly about what happens in the courthouses of the nation, but rare is the case where the populace at large takes much interest. In two recent cases, however, scores of Virginians hit the streets, publicly protesting what they saw as injustice in the courts.
In both cases, marchers were outraged at what appeared to be little or no punishment for brutal killings. Earlier this month, protesters in Powhatan County decried convictions of manslaughter, rather than murder, for two cousins responsible for the shooting death of high school football standout Tahliek Taliaferro. Now comes word that citizens took to the streets yesterday in Petersburg to voice disapproval of the failed prosecution of three men accused in the killing of local tire dealer Robert Braswell.
Both cases clearly involved racial issues, although the color roles were reversed. The protestors, however, apparently focused on crime and punishment issues – questions of criminal intent, sleepy jurors, and flaky witnesses.
Lest we forget, the people are watching. In the right case, they will make their way to the courthouse to say what they think.
By Peter Vieth