Judge delays decision in Robert E. Lee statue trial

Gov. Northam announces the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond will be removed
Gov. Northam announces the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond will be removed
Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 4:40 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A Richmond Circuit Court judge has delayed making a decision in the trial to decide the fate of the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond. Judge W. Reilly said he needed between 7 to 10 days, but added his decision could come sooner.

The case is in connection to a lawsuit seeking to prevent Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from removing the statue.

The plaintiffs argued that Gov. Northam does not have the authority to remove the statue because it would violate restrictive covenants in deeds that transferred the statue, its pedestal and the land they sit on to the state.

An attorney representing the plaintiffs said they would not comment on pending litigation but added they get are confident the judge will make the right decision.

The state has argued it cannot be forced in perpetuity to maintain a statue, especially since it’s become so divisive. The state has budgeted just under $1.1 million for the removal.

“It is a message of white supremacy. It cannot be allowed. It is just wrong. It really is that simple and you know at times it seemed like it was complicated but it shouldn’t be that complicated at all. It should be as simple as that. This is a monument to white supremacy," said Mark Herring, (D) Virginia Attorney General.

Judge W. Reilly heard arguments in the case on Monday and then move on to witness testimony.

Expected witnesses for the Commonwealth are:

  • Dr. Ed Ayers an award-winning historian, professor and former President of the University of Richmond. Dr. Ayers has been studying and teaching American history for over 40 years.
  • Professor Kevin Gaines, the inaugural Julian Bond Professor of Civil Rights and Social Justice at the University of Virginia. His current research is on the problems and projects of racial integration in the US during and after the civil rights movement.

Expected witnesses for the plaintiffs are:

  • Teresa Roane an archivist for the United Daughters of the Confederacy
  • Alexander Wise, the founding President of the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar, former Director of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, former board member of both the Civil War Preservation Trust and the Museum of the Confederacy

The case is widely expected to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

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