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Supreme Court decides appeals by order

The trial court erred in granting contributory negligence instructions for a Montgomery County farmer who allowed his Black Angus cow to stray onto Route 8 in the dark, the Supreme Court of Virginia ruled last week in an unpublished order.

A motorist testified that the cow was on the yellow line when she first saw the animal at a distance of 30 to 40 feet while traveling just over the 55 mph speed limit.

The court said the farmer presented no evidence that the driver had failed to use ordinary care or that the speed that she was driving was the proximate cause of the accident, which occurred on a section of road with an unobstructed view for a tenth of a mile from where the cow was hit.

The cow survived the accident, but the vehicle had to be put down with a bent frame, the court noted in Browning v. East, Record No. 081906.

In another unpublished order in a habeas corpus petition, Crawley v. Johnson, Record No. 901444, the Supreme Court said the trial judge should have allowed a rape defendant to explore whether the prosecutor violated the defendant’s rights by permitting the victim to testify that she did not have a boyfriend at the time of the attack.

The defendant contended that the victim had told police early in the investigation that she did not have a relationship at the time of the attack and argued that a boyfriend would have provided a motive for her to lie about what the defendant said was a consensual sexual encounter.

The Supreme Court said that testimony could have made a difference in a trial that turned on the largely uncorroborated testimony of victim and defendant.

By Alan Cooper

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