By Linda Cicoira
A Bloods street gang member surprised his lawyer and the prosecutor Thursday in Accomack Circuit Court when he waived his right to be tried by a jury of his peers on charges of attempted murder and related offenses.
Thirty-five-year-old Robert James (RJ) Northan Jr., of Parksley, entered pleas of not guilty to counts of attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder, malicious wounding, two counts of use of a firearm in a felony, and possession of a gun by a felon in connection with a shooting on Tyler Lane, in Accomac, last March. The victim, 26-year-old Donald Veney, of Accomac, was shot several times. The charges are aimed at covering all the bases for conviction.
The defendant asked for Judge W. Revell Lewis III to decide his fate, which will allow for the trial to take place sooner since jury trials have been banned due to the pandemic.
Defense lawyer Brandon Wilder, of Suffolk, showed up a couple of hours late for the 9:30 a.m. proceeding causing the rest of the day’s docket schedule to be altered. Morgan said he needed time to choose a trial date because he was surprised by Northam’s request for a bench trial as he had been advised of a jury by Wilder. Wilder said he had assumed his client would want a jury trial and was also surprised.
Lewis said the two lawyers should contact his secretary so a date could be chosen.
According to testimony at the preliminary hearing, when the victim was bleeding and waiting to go to the hospital, he told the Sheriff Todd Wessells that Northan had shot him. Another officer and rescue workers overheard the conversation.
Northan was acquitted in Accomack Circuit Court in 2016 for the 2015 murder of 47-year-old Ronnie Washington, whose body was found on the side of the street at the intersection of Bear Town and Metompkin roads.
A judge acquitted him because of inconsistences in the first case. The murder weapon, a 9mm Glock, was never recovered. There was also no DNA, fingerprint, or other physical evidence to link Northan to the crimes. An eyewitness changed his story several times.