Arlington prosecutor William S. Burroughs failed yesterday in his latest attempt to have a special grand jury investigate allegations of misconduct by Virginia Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman and the state police.
Arlington Circuit Court Judge Charles H. Duff denied Burroughs' request for a special grand jury to look into why Coleman ordered a three-month state police investigation of Burroughs' handling of a 1977 double-murder case.
Duff, in a four-page opinion, said he was rejecting Burroughs' request because four of five members of a regular grand jury sitting in Arlington had said they would be unwilling to serve on such an investigative panel.
Burroughs, a 41-year-old Democrat who is seeking reelection this fall, failed in a similar attempt last February after a majority of the members of a regular grand jury also said they would be unwilling to serve.
"The matter is not closed. There are a variety of things that I can do," said Burroughs, who added he was considering appealing Duff's ruling to the Virginia Supreme Court.
In Richmond yesterday, Republican Coleman, who called Burroughs' request "nonsense" and a "misuse of the grand jury system" in court papers filed Thursday in Arlington, said, "The judge's decision speaks for itself.
"I just wonder if the commonwealth's attorney will now stop using the Virginia judicial system for what is apparently his personal obsession."
Coleman said he ordered last year's probe, which cleared Burroughs of criminal misconduct allegations, after complaints by Arlington police and others that Burroughs was interfering in the 1977 murder investigation and would not prosecute a key suspect.
The case in question, which Burroughs prosecuted, involves Richard Lee Earman, a 36-year-old former Northern Virginia real estate salesman acquitted in 1977 after an eight-day trial of murdering real estate agent Alan Foreman and Foreman's fiancee, Donna Shoemaker.
Earman this year pleaded guilty to conspiring with another Northern Virginia man to murder the couple.
Burroughs, who has repeatedly complained that Coleman has refused to disclose why the probe was ordered, last year conducted his own investigation of Coleman and the state police using two Arlington sheriff's deputies.
Coleman has contended that Burroughs wanted a special grand jury investigation as a way of learning the contents of the secret state police probe. Burroughs has denied that that was true.
Burroughs said yesterday that he thought Coleman's court papers, filed while Duff was considering the prosecutor's request, had no effect on the judge's decision. "The judge's ruling was on what happened in court," Burroughs said, "not on Mr. Coleman's motion. But [my request] certainly seemed to have touched a nerve with Coleman."