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Appealing pro se, murderer gets a writ

Charles Edward Reed III might well have been as guilty as a Stafford County Circuit Court jury found him to be in June 2005.

But there was a significant problem in the trial for murder and three related counts that netted Reed a sentence of life plus 38 years for what witnesses said was a killing during a drug transaction.

The foreman of the grand jury that indicted Reed didn’t sign the indictments – an oversight that does not appear to be in dispute. Reed challenged his convictions on that basis last year in circuit court, but Judge Charles S. Sharp upheld the convictions, relying largely on Virginia Code § 19.2-227.

The statute says judgment shall not be reversed after a conviction “unless it be so defective as to be a violation of the Constitution.” That presumably is the Virginia Constitution, which – unlike the U.S. Constitution – says nothing about grand juries and mentions indictments only in the context of impeachment of public officials. (A failure to impeach does not eliminate the possibility of indictment for the same conduct).

Whatever the ultimate merits of the case, the Supreme Court of Virginia was troubled enough by the omission to grant Reed’s pro se petition for appeal.

Not that Reed will get to argue the case himself. The court appointed Steve Emmert from Virginia Beach and John Davidson from Charlottesville to represent Reed on the appeal in Record No. 100506.
By Alan Cooper

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