Arlington prosecutor William S. Burroughs was rebuffed yesterday by both a grand jury and a state judge in his efforts to have a special grand jury investigate Virginia Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman and the State Police.
Within minutes of each other, a sixmember grand jury panel and Circuit Court Judge Charles S. Russell rejected Burrough's pleas that an investigative grand jury be convened to hear his complaints.
"I'm disappointed," said a tight-lipped Burroughs, who had been confident that his requests would be granted prior to a three-hour session with the grand jury. Later, Burroughs down played the rejections. "I don't think it's much of a story now," he told a reporter.
His request, unprecedented in Arlington, is the latest attempt by the Democratic commonwealth's attorney to discover why Coleman, a Republican, ordered a state police investigation of his handling of a spectacular 1977 double murder case.
"This is not a... contest between me and Marshall Coleman," Burroughs said. "But how else do you handle a situation where there has been improper use of government power?"
Coleman said in Richmond yesterday the grand jury's action "speaks for itself. I am not especially disturbed by the efforts of Burroughs to investigate me because one learns to expect this sort of thing in public life." He said he was concerned about Burroughs' "apparent use of deputy sheriffs to question private citizens about whether they have made any complaints about Burroughs." Coleman called this "an abuse of power" that "can have a chilling effect on in vestigations."
Burroughs said he did investigate persons involved in the state police investigation of him because that probe "appeared to be illegally conducted." He denied abusing his power and said that, based on what he had learned, "it is possible" that Coleman "is guilty of abuse of power himself."
Burroughs, who recently announced he will seek reelection to a second term, said that, "although the jury foreman said they felt it was an appropriate subject for investigation, only two of the six jury members indicated they were willing to serve" on the investigative jury. A majority of jurors would have to agree before the special jury could be impaneled.
Burroughs said Judge Russell, who could have impaneled the special grand jury, also refused to.
Under Virginia law, special, or "investigative," grand juries may be convened to probe allegations of official misconduct.
Burroughs, a 40-year-old prosecutor, has been the focus of a bitter two-year controversy in Arlington over his handling of the murders of real estate agent Allan Foreman and his fiancee Donna Shoemaker. Richard Lee Earman, acquitted in 1977 on charges of murdering Foreman and Shoemaker, is scheduled to stand trial next month on related charges, including conspiracy to murder Foreman.
After complaints last spring by Arlington police and others that Burroughs was interfering in the investigation and would not prosecute a suspect they believed was involved, Coleman ordered the state police investitation.
In July after a three-month investigation, Coleman said the state police had cleared Burroughs of criminal misconduct charges. But Coleman has repeatedly refused to disclose the nature of the allegations against Burrouughs.
"What I wanted to find out (through a special grand jury) is why they investigated me" said Burroughs, who last week complained to a closed legislative committee about the investigation.