TOP LEGAL STORIES 2014: 2014 was a year full of legal drama. The stories here include some national and some local events, some that affected Virginians and many were the topics of heated debate.
8. RAY RICE / SOLANGE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - A viral video of NFL running back Ray Rice punching his fiancée ignited a national conversation about domestic violence. Rice received a minimal sentence and married the victim of the crime. Many compared Rice's horrific elevator actions to rapper Jay-Z's restraint during a similar elevator blowup earlier in the spring. Others were shocked to actually see what domestic violence really looks like.
7. DC. MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION - On July 17, 2014, the District of Columbia's law on possession of small amounts of marijuana changed. As a result, it is no longer a criminal violation for a person to possess marijuana. By the end of the year, congressional Republicans began taking actions to block legalization laws.
6. LOCAL POLICE ADMIT TRAFFIC TICKET QUOTAS: People have always accused police of writing tickets just to meet mandated ticket quotas. In July 2014 a former officer with the Chesterfield Police Department revealed a clear quota system requiring each officer to write "two to three" traffic stops and one arrest each working day. Arlington police admitted a similar program. Police had denied these programs for years. Most citizens just reacted with "duh".
5. OSCAR PISTORIOUS TRIAL - The most interesting international trial took place in Pretoria, South Africa when Paralympics star Oscar Pistorius was tried for the murder of his girlfriend. In September at the end of a seven-month trial, he was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to serve five years' incarceration.
4. GOVERNOR BOB MCDONALD TRIAL - In September a federal jury found former Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, guilty of public corruption. Many were shocked when McDonald's defense blamed his wife, the former First Lady of Virginia for his corruption. As the McDonalds prepared for sentencing one of their daughters wrote a letter to the court blaming the couple's downfall on her mother's materialism and mental health issues.
3. BILL COSBY AND UVA FRAT DRUG INDUCED DATE RAPE - In November Rolling Stone published a disturbing story about a University of Virginia undergraduate who claimed to be gang-raped at a fraternity. The story prompted protests and led university officials to suspend all fraternity action. After the article was published, major discrepancies in the story led Rolling Stone to repudiate the story. Earlier in the year former NFL player Darren Sharper was accused of and charged with 7 drug facilitated rapes in four states. In the most talked about date rape case, no less than 28 women have accused comedian Bill Cosby of raping and/or sexually assaulting them. Cosby has declined to directly discuss the claims. A national discussion ensued with some doubting and others believing the different claims.
2. JOE MORRISEY - In 2013, police found Virginia House of Delegates member and former Richmond Commonwealths Attorney Joe Morrissey in his home with a 17-year-old girl. In 2014 Morrissey made headlines by pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge and a six month active jail sentence. Under pressure from all sides, Morrissey resigned his seat on December 18, 2014, but announced that he would run in the special election to fill the vacancy.
1. POLICE KILLINGS - The biggest story of 2014 was the police killings in Ferguson, New York City, and Cleveland. In three stunning instances (two of them on film) police killed citizens with impunity. All three decedents were unarmed African-Americans. Tensions erupted in Missouri where protesters clashed with police for weeks before and after prosecutors refused to charge the officer that killed a man that some claimed posed no threat to police. Later, this winter, thousands joined national protests following NYPD officers choking a man to death as he proclaimed "I can't breathe." Again prosecutors refused to pursue the officers. In November, Cleveland police killed a 12-year-old boy seconds after approaching him. Allegedly post-racial America was left to acknowledge that opinions on these killings were largely divided on racial lines.