Darrel Puckett becoming a Judge is Part of God’s Plan!

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    Puckett, when asked why he wanted to be a judge in the 10th Circuit, included in his answer a belief that “God has a purpose and plan for everyone who belongs to him.”

    McEachin said, “That suggests a belief that there are those who do not belong to him,” and then asked, “How would that impact your decision-making on the bench?”

    Puckett replied that his decisions would be consistent with state law.

    McEachin also asked whether Puckett would be more inclined to believe the testimony of courtroom witnesses who he thought were “children of God.”

    “No,” Puckett replied.

    Legislators quiz candidates for bench

    By RAY REED (from the Lynchburg NewsAdvance)

    Published: April 05, 2011

    RICHMOND —

    State senators questioned two candidates closely Tuesday about their applications for a Circuit Court judgeship in a district that includes Appomattox and Halifax counties.

    Darrel Puckett, currently the commonwealth’s attorney in Appomattox County, drew the scrutiny of Sen. Don McEachin, D-Henrico County, after Puckett made a religious reference in explaining why he wanted the job.

    Kim S. White, the commonwealth’s attorney in Halifax County, gave the Senate Courts of Justice Committee a detailed account of her role as special prosecutor in the 2005 death of a man who had been arrested by Amherst County sheriff’s deputies.

    Both Puckett and White also were interviewed by a House of Delegates committee Tuesday. The House panel did not ask White any questions about the Amherst case.

    The majority-party caucuses in both the House and Senate will decide whether to support one of the candidates.

    The two committees interviewed about two dozen candidates for various judgeships Tuesday. One of them was Judge Patrick Yeatts, who is seeking appointment to the Circuit Court bench in the Lynchburg area’s 24th Judicial District.

    Yeatts is the only candidate for that judgeship.

    Some of the judgeships could be approved by the General Assembly this week.

    Puckett, when asked why he wanted to be a judge in the 10th Circuit, included in his answer a belief that “God has a purpose and plan for everyone who belongs to him.”

    McEachin said, “That suggests a belief that there are those who do not belong to him,” and then asked, “How would that impact your decision-making on the bench?”

    Puckett replied that his decisions would be consistent with state law.

    McEachin also asked whether Puckett would be more inclined to believe the testimony of courtroom witnesses who he thought were “children of God.”

    “No,” Puckett replied.

    “My rulings would be dictated by the current statutory law and the relevant case law, and I would be bound by the laws that are handed down by the General Assembly of Virginia,” Puckett told the senators.

    White was questioned by McEachin and other senators about her role as special prosecutor in the June 2005 death of Sanchez Taylor, who died after being arrested outside a welding shop that had been burglarized in Amherst County.

    After the Amherst County commonwealth’s attorney office asked for an outside prosecutor, the case file was given to White in June 2006, and she was asked to decide whether the deputies who arrested Taylor should be prosecuted in his death.

    White said she reviewed the files, interviewed several people, and learned that a Richmond murder case a few years earlier resulted in Taylor being found not guilty by reason of insanity, and that he was confined to a mental hospital for a time afterward.

    “He had grave mental-health issues,” White said.

    White gave her report on the case orally to the Amherst County prosecutor and State Police sometime around December 2006. She said she gave the report orally because she didn’t want a written report to appear in The News & Advance in Lynchburg.

    White said an attorney representing the Taylor family was preparing to file a civil lawsuit in federal court at that time.

    White said she and Arelia Langhorne, the family’s attorney, agreed that if information about Taylor’s mental-health background were to appear in the newspaper, it would prejudice jurors in the civil lawsuit.

    “We knew the headlines would be about this big in the Lynchburg newspaper and that would taint Mr. Taylor’s’ family’s chance for a fair trial in federal court,” White said.

    About a year later, White said, “I started getting hounded, frankly, by members of the Lynchburg press, demanding that I provide to them information concerning the case.”

    White said she did not provide the information because “I believed I would have been going against my agreement with Miss Langhorne to do a verbal report.”

    The deputies were cleared of criminal charges in the Sanchez death, and an agreement in the family’s civil lawsuit in federal court allowed Taylor’s mother and two brothers to split a $325,000 settlement in August 2008.

    “Frankly, I took the brunt of the Lynchburg newspaper’s frustration that I wouldn’t give any information, and I think it was the only professional and ethical thing for me to have done at that point,” White said.