A preliminary hearing for Franklin County homicide suspect Michael Alexander Brown — his first court appearance since he was captured as a fugitive in November — had been scheduled to go forward Thursday, but that has now been postponed until summer.
That state of temporary legal limbo is hardly unique to Brown.
On Monday, as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19, the Virginia Supreme Court told judges to suspend all nonessential, nonemergency court proceedings for at least 21 days, a move that will delay a majority of cases — everything from speeding tickets to major felonies — and will prompt some prosecutors to forgive smaller offenses.
Locally, Brown’s is perhaps the highest-profile interruption sparked by the coronavirus.
His hearing would likely have seen the release of new information about the case against the 22-year-old Marine corporal accused last fall of fatally shooting 54-year-old Rodney Brown, his mother’s longtime boyfriend. Little is known of Michael Brown’s whereabouts and activities between the day of the shooting and his arrest Nov. 27, following an 18-day search.
Brown’s new hearing is set for June 24, according to his lawyer, Deborah Caldwell-Bono.
The trial for two men accused of attacking an acquaintance at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park that was scheduled for next week has been moved to June 23.
Sammy Ahmed Hamadeh, 23, and Jorge Luis Pena, 27, are accused of attacking a college student who was 19 at the time, while the three of them were hanging out with others at the park in Scruggs in June. Hamadeh is charged with rape, and Pena with acting as an accessory to that crime. Hamadeh’s case has been rescheduled for June 23. According to Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney A.J. Dudley, Pena’s case will also be rescheduled from its March 31 date, but a new date had not been determined.
Franklin County Circuit Court has continued the Grand Jury set for April 13 until May 3 due to the COVID-19. The order stated “The Nation and State are presently, under a declared ‘state of emergency.’ Although the court does not wish to delay the Grand Jury’s opportunity to commence criminal charges, where they deem appropriate, the court must nonetheless weith the harm such a delay presents versus the harm that could result if interaction between a grand juror, a law enforcement officer or other court-related personnel, causes the COVID-19 virus to spread.”
Briana Barker of The Franklin News-Post contributed to this story.