Ashley Williams will NOT be going to trial tomorrow, Wednesday, Nov. 28. At the request of the prosecution, the trial is being postponed. No new date has been set.
According to Paul G., an attorney in the Henrico law firm of Morrissey and Goldman, which now is representing Ms. Williams, the lead prosecutor in the case told the court she had a family emergency involving her mother. It may be months before a new trial is held. The next milestone in the now three-year-old case will likely be a bail hearing, probably within weeks. Mobilizing for that hearing will be critical to Ms. Williams being released from Richmond City Jail, where she has been held for more than a year.
Ms. Williams is charged with second-degree homicide and felony child neglect in the death of her two-year-old son D'Sean, who was severely underweight when he died. Supporters have pointed out that three close relatives also have young sons who are dangerously underweight, raising the possibility that D'Sean was suffering from a genetic disease. At any rate, there is no evidence of Ms. Williams having neglected either D'Sean or any of his three siblings, all of whom are healthy. And yet Richmond's Commonwealth's Attorney's office filed charges against Ms. Williams before D'Sean's autopsy report was even issued. That report stated D'Sean died from malnutrition, but said the cause was “undetermined.” There was no evidence of any neglect.
The decision to postpone the trial was made on Nov. 26, according to King Salim Khalfani, Executive Director of the Virginia State Conference NAACP, who along with other longtime Richmond Black activists has played a key role in building support for Ms. Williams. That decision came just as new support has been building for Ms. Williams.
For weeks now, several of the women's rights activists responsible for turning out large numbers of women and male supporters earlier this year to oppose restrictions on abortion rights have been meeting and discussing the implications for the women's rights movement of the Ashley Williams case, which involves issues of race, class and gender. If women are truly to be free to choose whether or not to have a child, they must have the means to raise a child, which means access to good, affordable health care. A statement by women's rights activists calling for the public to attend the Nov. 28 trial was released to the media Nov. 27. Among the statement's endorsers was the Richmond chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
Information about Ms. Williams' next court hearing will be shared as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, please make sure this case stays in the public consciousness by discussing it with your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Editor, The Virginia Defender