In August 1977, two months after he was released from a Virginia juvenile detention facility, 18-year-old Philip Boyd and five accomplices burst into the apartment of a Fairfax County woman, tied the hands and feet of four people, slashed their throats and robbed them.
An attorney for one of the victims yesterday told a jury in Fairfax County Circuit Court that state corrections officials are partially responsible because they failed to supervise Boyd properly after he was released from the Beaumont Learning Center near Richmond.
The victim, Laura Bombere Clatterbuck, 24, is suing state officials for $2.5 million in damages in a case that law enforcement officials and lawyers believe could prompt a reexamination of the state's juvenile court system regardless of its outcome.
Boyd is now serving a 60-year prison term for several convictions stemming from the 1977 attack. All four victims lived.
"Philip Boyd was given a ticket, put on a bus and let go," Michael McManus, Clatterbuck's attorney, told the jury yesterday. McManus said corrections officials should have realized Boyd had violent tendencies and should have told Fairfax County corrections officials to supervise his probation.
The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, represents a growing trend throughout the nation of victims attempting to hold corrections officials responsible for the actions of prisoners after their release.
McManus told the jury that psychologists at the detention center said Boyd, who has a long record of criminal behavior, was an aggressive person and that "the violent tendencies of Boyd were something that should have been foreseen" by corrections officials.
Experts for the defense are expected to testify that there was no way the state officials could have predicted Boyd's violent behavior after his release.
Assistant Attorney General Wayne Powell, representing the Virginia Department of Corrections, said in his opening statement yesterday that Boyd was a "model youth" at the detention facility where he served nine months for hitting a policeman over the head with a bottle.
Judge Richard J. Jamborsky ruled in a pretrial hearing last week that corrections officials violated a law requiring state facilities to set up parole supervision programs through local counties for all youths upon their release, which would have included Boyd. Powell argued that even a supervised parole program would not have prevented Boyd from attacking Clatterbuck and her friends.
Powell told the jury that the five corrections officials named as defendants in the lawsuit were not responsible for Boyd's attack, noting, "These people did not cut Mrs. Clatterbuck's throat, these people performed a job."
He said much of the responsibility for Boyd's supervision, or lack of it, lies with the Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, which processed several juvenile cases involving Boyd from 1974 to 1976.
State attorneys also allege that Clatterbuck and her friends at the apartment at the time of the attack were involved in drug dealings with Philip Boyd.
"Unfortunately she suffered by her own acts, not by the acts of the defendants," said Powell.
Clatterbuck's attorneys denied that she was involved in any drug dealings with Boyd.
Clatterbuck said she has suffered permanent eye and muscle damage as a result of the attack, and has long scar marks on her neck where Boyd cut her throat with a steak knife from her kitchen.