Editor: A prosecutor’s duty is “not to win a case, but to see that justice shall be done”. Voters should be deeply troubled by Candidate Nicole Wittmann’s focus on winning cases over doing justice.
A disciplinary subcommittee of the Virginia State Bar found she erred in her recollection of the facts in closing argument in the Castillo trial and overstated evidence to the jury. They concluded her outcome-oriented advocacy did not comply with ‘best practices”. The justice system is badly broken and in need of reform. Wittmann’s focus on “winning cases” will only continue the status quo.
She has even denigrated her opponent, Buta Biberaj, a progressive, for “representing criminals”. Really? Isn’t the right to counsel for the accused the bedrock of our judicial system? The accused aren’t “criminals” unless convicted , except in Wittmann’s eyes. Her attitude reflects the current climate of “guilty until proven innocent” and violates basic ethical standards imposed on prosecutors including the requirement that a “prosecutor should respect the constitutional and legal rights of all persons, including suspects and defendants.”
Wittmann went so far as to lie about her residency to get on the ballot and “win” the office of Commonwealth Attorney. The Court ruled in her favor only after denying admission of incriminating cell phone evidence because it wasn’t turned over by the arbitrary deadline set by the court. Wittmann’s cell phone records showed that during the relevant 82 day time period, her cell phone only pinged at her “Loudoun Address”; that of a subordinate co-worker’s home in Leesburg a total of two days. Her phone pinged at her Fairfax County home hundreds of time on all 82 days.
Wittmann’s obsession with winning at all costs led her to completely ignore the risk to a young child’s emotional well-being when she called him to testify. In a case Wittmann said she “had to win”, she called a young boy to testify even though the child’s therapist believed he would be “severely traumatized emotionally” if he had to testify in open court or via closed circuit television (which may have “lessened” the trauma). The child’s testimony was ignored by some jury members because he contradicted himself several times. In that trial, Wittmann argued the sexual abuse of the victim from ages 5-12 by a family member would not affect the victim’s psyche in any way or have any negative impact on her in her early 40s.
Buta Biberaj is the embodiment of who we want as our Commonwealth Attorney. She consistently exhibits honesty, integrity, grit, determination, and humanity. And yes, Wittmann, there are untested rape kits – the VA Department of Forensics is six months behind. See – https://rga.lis.virginia.gov/Published/2018/RD419/PDF .
Buta is no one’s puppet. She is a fierce advocate. She will prosecute with vigor those who have committed crimes but, unlike her opponent, she will do so fairly and without violating Constitutional guarantees. The justice system is broken and reform is long overdue. Do not vote for more of the same – give justice a chance – VOTE FOR BUTA.
Lynn Davis, Sterling