Editorial – The system is working in Windsor case 

Published 7:09 pm Friday, October 7, 2022

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America’s judicial system has its share of critics, and their complaints have gotten louder as outside influences have attempted to politicize the courts. Still, we believe this nation’s jurisprudence, while imperfect, to be the best in the world at ascertaining the truth and dispensing justice accordingly.

That takes time, of course. The wheels of justice indeed turn slowly, which can be dissatisfying in an age when loud mouths on social media have all of the answers and demand quick affirmation from our branches of government, including the judiciary.

A good example continued playing out last week in a Suffolk courtroom, where a judge ruled that the state’s lawsuit against the town of Windsor for alleged misconduct by its police department should go to trial.

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Everything seems to be political these days, but the Windsor case is noteworthy for just how apolitical the key players have been in their handling of it.

New Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, a staunchly conservative Republican, could have scored political points with his base by quickly dropping the lawsuit, which was filed by his predecessor, liberal Democrat Mark Herring, in his final days in office in December.

Instead, Miyares allowed his staff to assess the merits of the case and carry it forward, albeit with a different focus than Herring’s. A revised complaint by Miyares’ team deemphasized racial discrimination as the motive for the Windsor Police Department’s alleged wrongdoing and instead focuses on troubling assertions of recklessness in its hiring practices and misconduct in its treatment of an Army reservist who was infamously pulled over, berated and ultimately pepper-sprayed.

A police video of the incident went viral in the spring of 2021, unleashing a torrent of hot takes by politicians, activists and keyboard warriors on social media. Those responsible for getting to the bottom of the incident – and any underlying, systemic issues that fostered it – tuned out the noise and set out to do their jobs.

A civil suit by the motorist, Army 2nd Lt. Caron Nazario, is progressing toward trial in federal court. The attorney general’s civil suit is moving on a parallel track in Isle of Wight Circuit Court, with retired Judge H. Thomas Padrick Jr. presiding after local judges wisely recused themselves. Isle of Wight Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips also recused herself, allowing special prosecutor Anton Bell of Hampton to determine — correctly, in our view — that state criminal charges against the officers are not warranted but that the U.S. Department of Justice should review whether Nazario’s civil rights were violated. That investigation likely will commence soon.

This is the way the system is supposed to work.