Prosecution, Defense Agree Reports’ Release Could Interfere with Trial

June 21, 2024
A view up the Rotunda columns on an almost cloudless day

(University Communications photo)

Attorneys for both the prosecution and defense in the pending criminal trial of the former University of Virginia student charged with fatally shooting three classmates and wounding two others filed a joint motion for a protective order this week to prevent the release of two reports stemming from an external review of the crime.

The University has already committed to withholding the reports until the conclusion of the trial, now scheduled for January. The Daily Progress newspaper filed suit to force the release of the reports, prompting the motion from the prosecution and defense attorneys in the criminal case. 

The motion, heard in Albemarle Circuit Court on Thursday, sought to prohibit UVA from making public a pair of external reports as part of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by The Daily Progress. Virginia Attorney General Jason S. Miyares commissioned the reports and tasked two law firms with creating them, following a request by then-University Rector Whitt Clement and President Jim Ryan.

“In addition to confidential scholastic records, the reports contain information which would be prejudicial to a fair trial in this matter,” Commonwealth’s Attorney James Hingeley and defense attorney Doug Ramseur wrote in their joint motion. They expressed their shared view that “public dissemination of these reports would cause unnecessary prejudice and inhibit the Court’s ability to seat a fair and impartial jury panel in Albemarle County.” 

In November, University leaders announced a delay in any public release of the reports, citing a concern that making them public could have a harmful impact on the ongoing criminal prosecution of the alleged shooter, a concern echoed in the attorneys’ motion. 

Circuit Court Judge Cheryl Higgins denied the joint motion without ruling on its merits, saying she only had authority to enter a protective order against the commonwealth’s attorney and the defendant, not a third party such as UVA.

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Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications