The Powhatan County prosecutor said yesterday that he will not try Beverly Anne Monroe again for murder, ending more than a decade she has spent either in prison or dreading being sent there.
Commonwealth's Attorney Robert B. Beasley Jr. decided against a new trial for Monroe in the 1992 slaying of Roger de la Burde, her lover and a wealthy Powhatan resident. De la Burde, 60, was found with a single gunshot wound to the head on a couch in his home.
"We're very happy, of course," Monroe, 65, said from her daughter's home in Richmond yesterday. "I'm not sure how I feel. It's a process and it's going to take awhile to sink in."
Monroe said she felt especially grateful to Stephen A. Northup and the other lawyers who worked on her appeal.
"It's difficult to put into words," said Katie Monroe, the daughter who devoted her own law practice to pursuing her mother's appeals. "It's finally over. We're overjoyed. I don't know how else to say it - just to be able to finally put this behind us."
Monroe has always maintained that she is not guilty of the killing, and her original state conviction and 22-year sentence were finally set aside on appeal last year by the U.S. District Court.
Beasley said the de la Burde family does not want the case retried, and some of the witnesses in the 1992 trial would not be available now anyway.
"I think that, after 11 years of constant litigation, the de la Burde family wants to put this tragic episode behind them and move on with their lives," Beasley said. "Beverly Monroe has served a significant portion of her sentence. There would be very little to gain, at this point, by a retrial."
Monroe was convicted of murder by a Powhatan Circuit Court jury in October 1992 and lost her appeals in the state judicial system.
Monroe, who was free during some of her state appeals, had served about seven years of her sentence when U.S. District Judge Richard L. Williams, reviewing her federal appeal, set aside her conviction and ordered a new trial in March 2002.
Williams found Monroe did not receive a fair trial, largely because the prosecution failed to disclose information to Monroe's trial attorneys that they could have used in her defense.
Williams also ordered Monroe freed from prison while the state appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Richmond-based appeals court affirmed Williams' ruling three months ago. Virginia Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore said he would not appeal the case further.
That left it up to Beasley, who reviewed the case originally tried by his predecessor, Jack Lewis, and by Warren B. Von Schuch, a deputy commonwealth's attorney in Chesterfield County. The prosecution had argued that de la Burde's relationship with another woman was a motive for Monroe to kill.
Beasley said he read the entire 2,100-page transcript of the 1992 trial and many of the transcripts and documents from the appeals processes. He said he also interviewed witnesses from the trial.
"There were a couple of [out-of-state] witnesses who simply would not respond to our inquiries," he said.
"It is always difficult to try an old case, particularly after 11 years," Beasley said. "Witnesses move away. Their memories fade. Sometimes they are hesitant or simply unwilling to cooperate."
But Beasley emphasized that the desire of de la Burde's family not to go ahead with another trial was the overriding factor in his decision.
"In a case like this one - a case that has been so emotionally draining for so long - you really have to consider the human toll of going forward." He said de la Burde's relatives "simply want this to be over; they want to move on. I feel like I must respect their wishes."
Northup said he helped Beasley obtain the transcripts he wanted to review. He was also one of the people with whom Beasley discussed the case while contemplating what to do.
"Obviously I'm pleased with the decision, and I firmly believe it's the right one," Northup said.
Beasley said he will proceed in Powhatan Circuit Court to dismiss the Monroe murder case, which was sent back there by the federal appeals court.
"Under these circumstances, with the victim's family wanting to lay this case to rest," Beasley said, "I feel comfortable that we made the right decision."
Contact Tom Campbell at (804) 649-6416 or firstname.lastname@example.org