Signees Must Be Revealed

Judge: Pastor To Give Prosecutors Petition

Posted: January 9, 2013

HARRISONBURG — A Rockingham County judge ruled that a local pastor must give prosecutors the petition with the signatures of supporters of a shooting defendant.

 

In July, Cindy Carr, pastor of River of Life Ministries just outside Harrisonburg, declared she had roughly 1,600 signatures on a petition asking prosecutors to drop the charges against Rudolph Dean.

 

Attorneys in the case presented arguments on Dec. 13 in Rockingham County Circuit Court on why the petition should, or shouldn’t, be handed over to prosecutors. On Jan. 2, Judge T.J. Wilson filed a written opinion ruling in favor of the prosecutors.

 

“The signers have thus signed a document stating that they have considered what they believe to be the evidence in this specific case, involving this specific defendant, and that they have formed an opinion as to the guilt or innocence of the accused,” Wilson wrote in the opinion. “Thus, the petition and the names affixed to it, are material to the proceedings and the commonwealth’s attorney should have access to the list of petitioners to assist in the [questioning] of the individuals on the jury panel.”

 

Dean, 47, of Elkton, is accused of shooting a county resident in the neck following an alleged “road rage” incident last January.

 

Dean is charged with one felony count of aggravated malicious wounding and one felony count of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

 

On Sept. 18, former Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Nagy subpoenaed the petitions from Carr, but she refused, saying the government doesn’t have the right to demand the list of names.

 

Nagy argued that the people who signed the petition shouldn’t be allowed on the jury, and the only way to make sure is to have the list.

 

Carr’s attorney, Grant Penrod, however, argued that forcing her to hand over the documents violated her freedom of speech and that prosecutors can simply ask potential jurors if they signed the petition.

 

He said he was disappointed with the ruling.

 

“They should have asked the jurors the questions like any other jury pool,” said Penrod. “In any case, we run the risk there are going to be jurors that are biased. We rely on the oath the jurors take. This case is no different and should be no different.”

 

The Case

 

Rockingham County sheriff’s deputies say Dean shot Robert Crawford, 43, outside Crawford’s home at 7011 South East Side Highway, seven miles south of Elkton, on the afternoon of Jan. 30, 2012.

 

Deputies say the dispute between the two men began on Spotswood Trail when Dean was driving his pickup truck slowly in the passing lane.

 

Crawford told investigators he used an obscene gesture when passing Dean on the highway. After Dean followed Crawford to his home, an altercation ensued that ended with the shooting, deputies say.

 

Prosecutors say it is a case of road rage, but Dean, who is free from Rockingham County Jail on a $50,000 bond, denies wrongdoing. He claims the shooting was self-defense.

 

Trial has been set for April 2.

 

Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or pdelea@dnronline.com



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