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Prosecutor jailed for refusing judge’s order to reveal name of witness in attempted murder case

Prosecutor jailed for refusing judge’s order to reveal name of witness in attempted murder case
Posted at 11:45 PM, Sep 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 13:31:31-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- An unusual drama played out inside the Manchester Courthouse in early August.

A rift between Judge David Hicks and Assistant Commonwealths' Attorney Katy Groover over revealing the name of a key witness in an attempted murder case sent the prosecutor to jail.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Colette McEachin sent the following statement:

“In this case, as ACA Groover repeatedly tried to inform the court, prior to being held in contempt, the Commonwealth was moving to ‘nolle pros’ or dismiss the charge. Since there was never going to be even a preliminary hearing, let alone an actual trial, on the charge, the defendant's 6th Amendment rights to confront his accuser did not attach. This was a highly unusual and regrettable circumstance that could have been completely avoided had the court exercised its inherent discretion to hear the Commonwealth's motion to dispose of the charge before ordering ACA Groover to name the shooting victim in open court.

However, in Judge Hicks’s recitation of the facts, there was no mention of the Commonwealth asking for the motion to nolle pros the charge.

CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone said that most likely led to a serious misunderstanding.

"There's legitimate reasons to fear for the safety of your witnesses,” said Stone. “I mean, that stuff happens all the time when they're put in harm’s way if a defendant finds out who they are. So that's not unusual that she'd feel compelled to make that motion. Then on the court side, if you do have a hearing and the order is to have the prosecutor turn over the name, and the prosecutor refuses, then that is contempt. The question here is what else was going on. If there was a motion to nolle pros or dismiss that we can't piece together here, that's something that could change the dynamic."

Groover was temporarily jailed and fined.

She appealed to the circuit court, where her case was heard and dismissed Monday.