TOP LEGAL STORIES 2014: 2014 was a year full of legal drama. The stories
here include some national and some local events, some that affected Virginians
and many were the topic of heated debate.
8. RAY RICE / SOLANGE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - A viral video of NFL running
back Ray Rice punching his fiancée ignited a national conversation
about domestic violence. Rice received a minimal sentence and married
the victim of the crime. Many compared Rice's horrific elevator actions
to rapper Jay-Z's restraint during a similar elevator blowup earlier
in the spring. Others were shocked to actually see what domestic violence
really looks like.
7. DC. MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION - On July 17, 2014, the District of Columbia's
law on possession of small amounts of marijuana changed. As a result,
it is no longer a criminal violation for a person to possess marijuana.
By the end of the year congressional republicans began taking actions
to block legalization laws.
6. LOCAL POLICE ADMIT TRAFFIC TICKET QUOTAS: People have always accused
police of writing tickets just to meet mandated ticket quotas. In July
2014 a former officer with the Chesterfield Police Department revealed
a clear quota system requiring each officer to write "two to three"
traffic stops and one arrest each working day. Arlington police admitted
a similar program. Police had denied these programs for years. Most citizens
just reacted with "duh".
5. OSCAR PISTORIOUS TRIAL - The most interesting international trial took
place in Pretoria, South Africa, when Paralympics star Oscar Pistorius
was tried for the murder of his girlfriend. In September at the end of
a seven month trial he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to
serve five years' incarceration.
4. GOVERNOR BOB MCDONALD TRIAL - In September a federal jury found former
Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of
public corruption. Many were shocked when McDonald's defense blamed
his wife, the former First Lady of Virginia for his corruption. As the
McDonalds prepared for sentencing one of their daughters wrote a letter
to the court blaming the couple's downfall on her mother's materialism
and mental health issues.
3. BILL COSBY AND UVA FRAT DRUG INDUCED DATE RAPE - In November Rolling
Stone published a disturbing story about a University of Virginia undergraduate
who claimed to be gang-raped at a fraternity. The story prompted protests
and led university officials to suspend all fraternity action. After the
article was published, major discrepancies in the story led Rolling Stone
to repudiate the story. Earlier in the year former NFL player Darren Sharper
was accused of and charged with 7 drug facilitated rapes in four states.
In the most talked about date rape case, no less than 28 women have accused
comedian Bill Cosby of raping and/or sexually assaulting them. Cosby has
declined to directly discuss the claims. A national discussion ensued
with some doubting and others believing the different claims.
2. JOE MORRISEY - In 2013, police found Virginia House of Delegates member
and former Richmond Commonwealths Attorney Joe Morrissey in his home with
a 17-year-old girl. In 2014 Morrissey made headlines by pleading guilty
to a misdemeanor charge and a six month active jail sentence. Under pressure
from all sides Morrissey resigned his seat on December 18, 2014, but announced
that he would run in the special election to fill the vacancy.
1. POLICE KILLINGS - The biggest story of 2014 was the police killings
in Ferguson, New York City and Cleveland. In three stunning instances
(two of them on film) police killed citizens with impunity. All three
decedents were unarmed African-Americans. Tensions erupted in Missouri
where protesters clashed with police for weeks before and after prosecutors
refused to charge the officer that killed a man that some claimed posed
no threat to police. Later, this winter, thousands joined national protests
following NYPD officers choking a man to death as he proclaimed "I
can't breathe." Again prosecutors refused to pursue the officers.
In November, Cleveland police killed a 12 year old boy seconds after approaching
him. Allegedly post-racial America was left to acknowledge that opinions
on these killings were largely divided on racial lines.