To the editor:
Your Aug. 27 and Sept. 23, 2020 articles on the murder of Karla Dominguez were informative and disturbing. After reviewing the bond motion, hearing transcript and order of release, I believe the court, Commonwealth’s Attorney and defense counsel all bear some responsibility.
But as your articles and editorial make clear, they appear to be circling the wagons and pointing fingers. Del. Mark Levine (D) pounced on the incident to pursue “reallocation” of resources away from the police, despite recent crime spikes and records showing Alexandria police acted professionally and appropriately at all times.
There needs to be a thorough independent accounting of who and what failed Dominguez, and it needs to be conducted by the Virginia Attorney General’s office.
In your Aug. 27 article, defense counsel asserted that its motion was grounded in evidence of innocence and had little or nothing to do with COVID-19. The bond motion tells a different story.
In those official court documents, defense counsel painted a dire picture of COVID-19 in the jails and an inability to represent their client effectively due to COVID-19 restrictions. Neither the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office nor the court challenged these assertions. There was one passing reference to a “substantial defense” but nothing further.
In fairness, the bond motion was filed the afternoon of April 8, and the hearing and order occurred the next morning, April 9, so it is unclear whether the prosecutors had any time to respond or prepare for the hearing, nor is there an explanation of the emergency that prompted the court to expedite the hearing. The release order stated twice in barely more than one page that the Commonwealth’s Attorney opposed the defendant’s release.
The hearing transcript was particularly disturbing since the defense lawyers argued the defendant’s “innocence” by painting a caricature of the victim, essentially attacking her credibility in light of purported vague and minor inconsistencies. The defense mentioned twice in a 22-minute hearing her alleged job in a dance club.
The transcript could be a case study in why women, especially immigrants, are reluctant to come forward. The Commonwealth’s Attorney painted a vivid and grisly picture of what happened in the original assault and cited physical evidence.
Defense counsel dismissed the evidence and the injuries, although he never offered an actual explanation of why Dominguez would concoct the story. The court’s decision to release Ibrahim Bouaichi seems to credit the defense lawyers’ opinions, but its decision is only as good as the evidence before it.
The facts and circumstances of this tragedy demand an independent investigation, including:
The veracity of what the defense represented to the court in the bond motion and at hearing;
What was the emergency behind such short notice for the bond hearing? Were we just emptying the jail due to COVID-19?
Defense counsel states in your articles that COVID-19 was largely irrelevant and the release was based on evidence of innocence, yet only moved for bond, not dismissal of charges. What “evidence” are they referencing, beyond their own opinions? Was the Alexandria Police Department notified of any of this? Did anyone ask the Alexandria Sheriff whether the statements regarding COVID-19 in the jail were true?
The Commonwealth’s Attorney opposed the motion but did not contest statements about COVID-19. What did it do to check the truthfulness of the statements about COVID-19?
The court did not order any tracking device. Why? Whose responsibility was it to request it? What failed? Was Dominguez notified that Bouaichi was being released so she could take steps to protect herself?
Maryland failed to report his felony arrest after his release and before the murder. Was that systemic failure, a mistake or a decision?
These are just some investigatory questions and will likely lead to new areas of inquiry. An independent investigation from the Virginia Attorney General is appropriate because the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office has a conflict of interest. They cannot be reasonably expected to investigate themselves and achieve a credible result.
It is lazy to say the “system” failed, and therefore no one is accountable for anything – as the parties are arguing now. Systems are made of people with professional responsibilities and duties to the public. People failed, and now Karla Dominguez is dead at the hands of the person accused of raping and brutalizing her.
How did that happen and who is accountable?
-Frank Putzu, Alexandria