Megan Rhyne's blog

Anonymous jurors, part II

VCOG has submitted comments to the Va. Supreme Court's Advisory Council on Rules in opposition to a proposed rule to refer to all jurors in criminal cases by number. The proposal goes on to say that juror records cannot be copied by the lawyers who receive them, and the records must be returned to the court once a jury is impaneled.

Though recognizing the need in some cases to protect jurors from the potential threat of harm or tampering, VCOG's board of directors voted at its June board meeting to oppose the proposal in its current form.

Mug shots are public records

Full text of judge's decision

A Roanoke judge reminded local sheriff Octavia Johnson that mug shots are public records that must be released upon request (they can be kept confidential if their release would jeopardize an ongoing investigation, but not after that danger's passed). Johnson's policy was to release photos of those still in the jail's custody, but not those for people released on bail.

Podcast: Why anonymous juries are bad

Podcast on why VCOG's board of directors is opposed to a rule proposed by a Va. Supreme Court advisory committee that would use numbers instead of names for jurors in all criminal cases.

For a copy of the proposal, click here.

And for a recent editorial on more on why the idea's a bad one, see below.

Va. FOIA & access in the news

The Warren County Department of Social Services has not violated the Virginia Freedom of Information Act as claimed in a pending lawsuit in General District Court, according to the county attorney. "An adage says there are two sides to every story," Warren County Attorney Blair D. Mitchell says in a response to an argument made on behalf of Linda B. Selover of Front Royal. "While the Defendant, unfortunately, has not prepared destruction documents for the discarded items, that failure is not a violation of the Freedom of Information Act, as the Petitioner suggests," Mitchell asserts.

Va. FOIA & access in the news

Loudoun County Chairman Scott K. York (I-At Large) has submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act to try and find the truth about reports that have circulated about the Planning Commission since last week. York confirmed this weekend he has submitted a FOIA request to Commissioner Sandra Chaloux (Dulles) in an attempt to uncover any e-mails she may have sent regarding the Planning Commission's work session on the Countywide Transportation Plan.

Supreme Court's juror anonymity proposal

Virginia passed a law in 2008 that allows courts to close access to juror lists upon a showing of good cause ( The bill was originally introduced in 2007, sponsored by Del. Morgan Griffith (R-Salem), but was sent to the Crime Commission for study. Del. Bob Marshall (R-Manassas) carried the bill in 2008 and made clear during committee sessions that his aim was to protect jurors in situations where there may be retaliation, especially in gang trials.

FOIA in the news

It's popular to bash mainstream media, says Lucy Dalglish of the Virginia-based Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (and VCOG board member), but they've spent a lot of money fighting for the public's right to know what its public and private institutions are up to, "They spent the money on your behalf. You may have noticed your local media have hit hard times. ...I'm afraid. Very afraid that the folks we've always counted on to push for open government won't be able to continue this battle."

FOIA process needn't be adversarial

  Once again, the FOI Advisory Council has had to remind FOIA requesters and government officials alike to play nice.
In its June 9, 2009, opinion (AO-06-09), the council congratulated a citizen and a rep from the AG's office for their "polite and concise" communications with each other. But the council also observed:

Public departures/private reasons

A story and an editorial from the Lynchburg News & Advance about high-profile resignations that leave more questions than answers.
In Amherst County, the county administrator abruptly resigned in a closed-door session. No one's talking, so the public has no idea what happened.
In Appomattox, it was the school board superintendent.

Secret lawsuit settlement amounts

An edited version of this article appeared Sunday, May 31, in the Roanoke Times

Let's settle this thing

by Megan Rhyne

Two juveniles held in a Newport News detention center claim they were raped by two other residents. The two boys sued the city, saying the city was at fault because the facility was too crowded and did not separate juveniles based on size or other factors.


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