A Virginia judge yesterday sentenced a 17-year-old Arlington youth to life plus 20 years for the brutal beating and robbery of a 72-year-old Arlington widow.
"There is, I suppose, an argument that no crime of this kind could be committed by a person who is truly well," said Arlington Circuit Court Judge Charles S. Russell as he denied a motion by attorneys for Lionell D. Wormley that sentencing be delayed to allow the youth additional psychological testing.
The judge said, however, that he believed that Wormley, who will be eligible for parole in 15 years, was not sick legally under Virginia law. The crime for which he was convicted was almost "unparalleled in revulsion," Russell said.
The victim, who was attacked in her North Arlington home last January by Wormley and another youth "was left covered with broken furniture in a pool of her own blood," the judge said. "They attacked her savagely and without reason and they left her for dead."
Last month Russell sentenced Julian A. Morris, a 15-year-old Arlington youth to life imprisonment plus 60 years for his role in that crime and a similar assault on another elderly woman. Both youths had been certified to be tried as adults because the severity of the crime.
Their sentences, plus the fact that both defendants are black and both victims and the judge are white, has aroused concern among members of Arlington's black community some of whom were present at yesterday's proceeding.
Civil rights leaders in Virginia have complained frequently that blacks are treated far more harshly than whites in the state's courts, a point acknowledged by State Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman and other advocates of a more uniform sentencing procedure for the state's criminal courts. Last month after considerable protest by Northern Virginia blacks a Prince William County judge backed down on his threat to impose a 240-year sentence on an 18-year-old black youth convicted of burglary.
"We're not upholding what Wormley did," said John Robinson, director of Arlington's Martin Luther King Center after the sentencing. "The black community's really upset about it. We're here because we don't want a double standard of justice in Virginia or in Arlington.
Wormley's attorney, Kevin Fitzmorris, argued unsuccessfully that the youth should receive more sophisticated psychological testing at his family's expense in an effort that would pinpoint possible neurological disorders which might have caused him to commit the crime.
Also sentenced yesterday for his role in the assault was 20-year-old Robert Lee Harris of Arlington, the chief prosecution witness against Wormley and Morris. Harris received a three-year sentence for receiving property stolen from the woman's house.