“Protect the Children!” Rings Outside Courthouse After Tech Trial

“Protect the Children!” Rings Outside Courthouse After Tech Trial

Written By: Kate Houser
March 16th, 2012

It’s been almost five years since the tragic April 2007 Virginia Tech shootings and seven days since the start of this trial. Seven days of reliving the worst experience of their lives for parents of Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde who were both victims in the shooting; victims with parents who were persistent and determined in finding justice for their daughters. The lawsuit came to rest on Tuesday, March 13th and the verdict from the jury was presented the next day.

The court room was surprisingly vacant as few media, officials and spectators patiently awaited the return of the jury. The court room was warm and still on the almost 80 degree day in Christiansburg, Va. Mr. Peterson sat quietly in his chair briefly exchanging whispers with the Mr. Pryde. Both men seemed to be calm, but neither could form a smile.

(Mr. Peterson, father of Erin Peterson outside courthouse after verdict was read)

After being dismissed at approximately 11:40 a.m. Wednesday morning, the seven person jury consisting of four males and three females returned to the courtroom at 3:01 p.m. It took them three hours to decide their opinion on the fate of a trial that’s been in the making for almost five years.

The jury’s verdict was presented and stated they believed that each parent should receive $2 million ($4 million for each family to be split). The moment the verdict was read, Mrs. Peterson let out soft sobs and covered her face. Mr. and Mrs. Pryde managed to keep composer, but the cried of Mrs. Peterson continued as a background noise for the remainder of the trial.

Judge William Alexander continued after the reading of the verdict to make an emotion, heart-felt speech as he addressed the entire courtroom. “My heart goes out to all of you for the loss you have suffered. I can’t possibly understand the hurt you are going through. I just want to tell you that I am very, very sorry for your loss. This has been the most difficult case I have ever been involved in,” he said.

It’s likely that since the state capped the award for damages at $100,000 that the families will not receive the $4 million the jury thinks they deserve. However, it has still not yet been fully determined what the award will be. The fact that the judge did rule Virginia Tech negligent in the shootings is an epic moment in itself. It is rare that the state would lose a case like this and be charged with guilt, so March 14th, 2012 stands as an extremely successful and proud day for the parents of the victims.

A day that Mrs. Peterson wishes she didn’t have to even go through, but says it was all worth it. “Children are a gift. Protect the children. Protect the children. Protect the children,” she said. The mother stressed the fact that she had to do this because it is what Erin would have wanted.

(Mrs. Peterson outside of the courthouse after the verdict was read)

Mrs. Peterson hopes that this will mark a change in all universities throughout not just Virginia, but the entire country. That this trial and her actions will stress the importance of safety to all schools in the United States so that something like this will never happen again.