During the last week in September, team two determined a trip to Tyler County West Virginia was desirable for a couple of reasons. First, although we received numerous documents from the public defender’s office, it was clear there were important documents missing. To resolve this problem, a trip to the Tyler County Circuit Clerk’s Office was in order. Second, and because we were going to be in the area, we decided we would make a quick trip to Sistersville where the alleged incident occurred surrounding our current innocence case. This way, we could hopefully get a real-life feel for the events that took place nearly two years ago surrounding our case.
Having come from Parkersburg, WV team two was no stranger to Sistersville and the surrounding Tyler County area. Going in, we had a decent idea of what to expect from a small and rural West Virginia town. We set off on our journey from Morgantown around 8:30 in the morning. Everything was very smooth until we turned off of Route 50. As soon as we veered off of the interstate, it was apparent that Siri had led us down a very twisty country road. A road that we were going to need to stay on for nearly an hour. Forty-five minutes and a couple of queasy stomachs later, we had arrived at the Tyler County Circuit Clerk’s Office in Middlebourne, WV, a very lovely small West Virginia town with extremely nice residents. Walking up to the Circuit Clerk’s Office, the first thing I noticed were the multiple “Go Knights” signs placed throughout the lawn of the building. This was a very nice gesture to support the local high school athletic teams, one that you do not see very often from governmental buildings. Once inside, the atmosphere quickly took us back to an older time. The walls, offices, doors…everything was older, yet it gave the building a comforting, warm feel. We made our trek up two flights of stairs to the top floor of the building and proceeded to speak with the Circuit Clerk. We had spoken over the phone several times before, so it was nice placing a face with the voice. We explained who we were and that we would like to take a look at the case file in order to make sure we had all of the relevant documents. The first thing she laughingly explained to us was to never come the way we did again, and she gave us a better route to take home to Morgantown. Surprisingly, the clerk explained that everything was electronic and showed us to the touch-screen computer. It was strange seeing such a nice computer storage system in a very old building, but we weren’t complaining. Over the course of the next hour and a half, we sifted through hundreds of documents and was able to hand a list of documents we did not have over to the clerk. The clerk was very kind and printed out the documents, along with also providing us with a CD of important images regarding our case. We politely thanked her for all of her hard work and assistance, and proceeded down the creaking stairs and out to our vehicle. We left the town of Middlebourne with smiles on our faces and feelings of accomplishment.
Having been our first investigative road trip together, team two came out of this experience feeling more like a team than ever. Meaning, this gave us an opportunity to bond and feel accomplished outside of the clinic office doors. Furthermore, it is one thing to learn about your client’s innocence case by reading document after document. But, it is a completely different feeling to put what you have learned through documents and client interviews, and place it in a real-life situation. Even if this trip would not had provided the important documents from the circuit clerk that it did, it still would have been well worth the trip to Sistersville to see first-hand the locations continually referenced in our client’s case. In a way, it reiterated the fact that this is not just another case decision we’re reading about in law school, but a real person fighting for their actual innocence right here in our great home state of West Virginia.