Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Venue change affords attendees of Burrow trial unique opportunity
Richard Burrow is on trial for the second time in connection with his fund raising for the D-Day Memorial.
Jury selection for a capital murder trial bumped the case from the spacious third-floor courtroom here to a smaller courtroom on the second floor, where family and friends of Burrow crammed in along with reporters this week. Spectators filled the courtroom gallery Monday. Several, including Bob Archer, the head of Burrow's Legal Defense Fund, even had to stand up along the courtroom wall for part of the time.
Trials that last for weeks create an odd sense of both proximity and distance. Jurors, spectators, and participants see one another every day for this intense experience, and watch the drama of a prosecution unfold together. But though they share the same space, participants can't talk to jurors, of course. And when it's all over, everybody goes home and people who didn't know each other before the trial are unlikely to see one another again.
Burrow, 57, is on trial for the second time in connection with his fund raising for the $25 million monument in Bedford. Prosecutors have argued he misrepresented facts to get funds from Virginia and private donors, which Burrow has vehemently denied. No one disputes that the millions Burrow acquired on behalf of the foundation - and with board authorization - went toward construction costs and outstanding bills.
Family members declined to comment, citing the ongoing trial.
In addition to family members, friends and the media, an instructor at the University of Virginia who teaches about nonprofit management is sitting in on the case.
Attendees run into one another waiting in line to get through security, share elevators, show up next to each other at bathroom sinks, and even sometimes wind up at the same pizza place at lunchtime.
On top of that, what makes the second Burrow trial unique is the change of venue to Charlottesville; no one is going back to the office at lunchtime or in many cases, home at night. Everyone has traveled to get there - though some have traveled farther than others.
Many people involved in the case are staying at a hotel near the federal courthouse here. Burrow and his wife, Janet, and many of his relatives are also staying at the hotel. Burrow's parents, John and Almyra, have been at the trial every day. His brother and his wife have also come in from Tennessee.
Many members of Janet Burrow's family have attended the trial as well, including her mother, two brothers and a sister. Several of her children have also come from as far away as New York.
Each day, several Burrow supporters use dollies to drag crates of documents back into the courthouse, or struggle to lug large white posterboards that appear to be defense exhibits.
One thing prosecutors and Burrow supporters could probably agree on is that neither side seems particularly excited by the daily presence of cameras outside the courthouse.
But participants have kept up on what's going on at home. Tuesday, people from both sides of the case called back to Roanoke to check in on how relatives were doing with the flooding.