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Tucker rape trial appeal denied

by Audrey Thomasson

The Court of Appeals of Virginia in Richmond recently denied a motion for appeal by Calvin Tucker.

Tucker, 36, was found guilty in Lancaster Circuit Court last year of the January 2011 break-in and brutal rape of an 89-year-old woman in Lively. Judge Joseph E. Spruill Jr. sentenced Tucker to a total of 85 years in prison.

Tucker continued to profess his innocence during the trial and sentencing despite what the judge called “overwhelming evidence” against him, including DNA matches.

The appeal request challenged Judge Spruill’s decision to grant the assistance of a special prosecutor knowledgable in forensics evidence due to Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Cunningham’s “inexperience.”

Thomas M. Hendell and Elizabeth Hurd of Dunton, Simmons and Dunton represented Tucker in his appeal. They argued the trial court erred in appointing a special prosecutor because Cunningham’s motions were not in writing as required and because the court allowed a special prosecutor without providing the defense an opportunity to object.

Assistant Attorney General Aaron J. Campbell argued for the state against an appeal, claiming the trial court did provide the defense an opportunity to argue against the motion in a pre-trial hearing. Also, he claimed that had the alleged error not occurred, the trial result would have been the same.

In denying Tucker’s motion, the panel of judges wrote, “ . . . We hold no reversible error occurred and we affirm appellant’s convictions.”

In a statement issued by the office of the Lancaster Commonwealth’s Attorney, Cunningham wrote, “Justice is being served. The impact of the crimes at issue on both the elderly victim and on the community itself was devastating. I commend the witness for her cooperation and I also commend the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department and police officers for the excellent work in resolving this case.”

posted 07.17.2013

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