Virginia Tech Suit Update - Defense Rests
Witnesses called by the defense testified on behalf of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) officials regarding their actions on April 16, 2007, stating that the officials acted responsibly and capably during the 32-victim killing spree conducted by Sueing Hui Cho, after which the defense rested its case.
The defense only called a small portion of the 50 potential witnesses they provided in pre-trial documentation. However, the witnesses' testimony did not go unchallenged -- attorneys for two parents slain during the rampage stated their intention to present rebuttal witnesses to call the defense's case into question anew. The parents of Karen W. Pryde and Erin Nicole Peterson argue that the administrators failed to provide complete testimony, and were focused on covering up their missteps during and immediately after the shootings.
In essence, when administrators heard of the first two shootings on April 16, they concluded that the shootings were targeted, domestic matters. As such, they delayed informing other students in an effort not to cause a panic, believing the gunman to have fled the scene. Unfortunately, Cho arrived at his second target only a few minutes later, and began shooting again after chaining the doors of Norris Hall shut. The defense made the case that the initial decision to avoid causing a panic was justified.
The U.S. Department of Education (D.O.E.) disagreed with this assessment, however. An investigatory panel concluded that the alert should have been issued far earlier, and that the campus was lax in failing to do so. The result was a $500,000 fine leveled against Virginia Tech by the D.O.E. Virginia Tech is currently appealing that ruling.
The Pryde and Peterson families are the only plaintiffs who elected not to take part in an $11 million settlement paid out by Virginia Tech following the shootings, and are thus the only ones eligible to bring suit against the school as part of these proceedings. Attorneys for both sides of the case are expected to argue over a number of matters such as jury instructions and the appropriate threat levels the campus should have used.