Judge who released accused murderer sought to 'see through the law,' rule 'based on who person is'

Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins released accused rapist Ibrahim Bouaichi from prison in April due to the risk of coronavirus exposure, despite the objections of a local prosecutor. Police say that after his release the suspect went on to murder the woman who had accused him of rape and testified against him in court.

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Alexandria, Virginia
Alexandria, Virginia
(Westend61/Getty)
Updated: August 8, 2020 - 6:20pm

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A retired judge who allowed an accused rapist to go free earlier in the year over the objections of a prosecutor — with the alleged criminal now accused of killing the woman he had allegedly raped — once advocated deciding cases "based on who the person is" rather than the explicit demands of the law. 

Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins released Ibrahim Bouaichi from prison in April due to concerns voiced by Bouaichi's lawyers that he was at risk of contracting COVID-19 while in confinement. The release went through over the objections of a local prosecutor.

Bouaichi had been arrested on a charge of rape; police say that after his release he subsequently went on to murder the woman who had accused him of rape and testified against him in court. 

Dawkins, who retired earlier in the summer after becoming Alexandria's first black judge in 1994, has been an icon of the Northern Virginia city for over twenty years. Upon his retirement in June, roughly two months after releasing Bouaichi from prison, the judge expressed a judicial philosophy that may have informed that release order.

"I did know that sometimes what you were seeing in court is not in fact the person," Dawkins told News4 in June. "Sometimes we need to see through the law and make the decision based on who the person is."

Dawkins was not reachable by phone on Saturday. In June, retiring amid community acclaim for his decades of service, the judge stressed a quasi-holistic approach to the law. "I don’t come to court as a judge," he told the news station. "I come to court and I see people.

Bouaichi was recaptured after the alleged murder and is in grave condition after reportedly shooting himself ahead of being arrested. His lawyers did not respond to queries on Saturday. 

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