Lara loved the law and felt that our legal system was a good one for the most part. Lara was also passionate about the death penalty and felt there was no use for it. She channeled that passion into a Note that was published in 2013. Her note left no doubt as to how the Virginia law has systematically exaggerated the ostensible “future dangerousness” of prisoners who will never be released from prison, which has pushed juries to authorize more executions than any other state but Texas. She also never forgot the human story of unfairness and tragedy.
Please see the letter below from Professor David Bruck, who was Lara’s mentor during the writing of her Note. This opinion by the court is vindication indeed:
Dear Gerri and Jay:
It was good to meet you during this Fall’s WLSO Symposium at Washington & Lee. I mentioned to you then that the death penalty case that Lara wrote her Washington & Lee Law Review note about, Lawlor v. Commonwealth, seemed headed for reversal in federal court. Lara D. Gass, Virginia’s Redefinition of the “Future Dangerousness” Aggravating Factor: Unprecedented, Unfounded, and Unconstitutional, 70 WASH. & LEE L. REV. 1887 (2013). Sure enough, just two weeks ago, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit vacated the death sentence in Mr.Lawlor’s case, largely for reasons that Lara urged in her article.
It took a long time for the legal system to admit, in effect, that Lara was right (and to be sure, the full Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals or the US Supreme Court can still weigh in). But for now at least, it feels like vindication, and I thought you might be interested in seeing the court’s opinion, which I have enclosed.
With every good wish, I remain,
David I. Bruck