By Chris Teale (File photo)
Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter announced last week he will not seek an indictment in connection with the death of a resident at the Sunrise of Alexandria senior living facility.
Hunter Alexander, 82, died on October 26, after being pushed by a 77-year-old fellow resident of the Duke Street facility in an argument two days earlier over whether a television should be turned off. Alexander fell to the ground and received a fractured hip, which later led to cardiac complications.
Both men were residents of a special unit within the facility for people suffering from memory impairment or dementia. Porter said he believes that the assailant did not intend to cause death or bodily harm, and that his dementia prevented a detective from the Alexandria Police Department from interviewing him and gaining more information about the incident.
The 77-year-old has since been moved to a facility in another state to receive care. Porter said if charges were brought, the case would be highly unlikely to come to trial given the man’s mental state.
“The goals of the criminal justice system — holding people accountable for their actions, punishing intentional criminal actions and deterring future criminality — cannot be accomplished in a case where the person who committed the acts clearly does not understand the nature and consequences of his actions due to irreversible dementia,” Porter said in a statement. “On these facts, a felony indictment would, in my opinion, constitute an improper exercise of the authority inherent in my office and a breach of the trust handed to me by the citizenry.”
Porter added that as the population ages, society must address cases such as these where people suffering from cognitive diseases act out “in a manner inconsistent with their true personality.”
He said that with the proper guidance, a balance can be struck between punish- ing those of sound mind who commit similar crimes, and those who are not of sound mind who do not understand the weight of their actions.
“I sincerely hope that our citizenry openly discusses this important issue and how it should be addressed,” Porter said. “The resolution may, in fact, require the Virginia General Assembly to weigh in and provide guidance. In most cases, the criminal justice system is not the appropriate way to address this issue, but, without additional resources it may end up being the only way. This unfortunate situation is one we as a community can avoid by being proactive.”