The official blog of the WVU Clinical Law Program

Professor Valena Beety and 3L Eric Haught of the Innocence Project

Cabell attorneys argue for new trial in 2007 killing

HUNTINGTON - The West Virginia Supreme Court heard arguments from Cabell County attorneys on Tuesday pleading for a new trial for a man sentenced to life without mercy after a jury found he killed a man over a lost dice game in Huntington in 2007.

Of the eight errors attorneys Connor Robertson and Todd Meadows argued, two essential arguments detail what they allege was suppressed and possibly exonerating testimony and disputable footwear forensic analysis, as detailed in a brief filed by the West Virginia Innocence Project.

Federal Correctional Institution-Hazelton

WVU Clinical Law Provides Educational Programming for Incarcerated Veterans at FCI Hazelton

On Thursday, February 16, 2017, a small group of students from the West Virginia University College of Law Clinical Law Program traveled to the Federal Correctional Institution-Hazelton, a federal medium security men’s prison facility, to offer programming to incarcerated veterans. Included in the group were student attorneys Michelle Schaller and Bradley Wright from the West Virginia Innocence Project, student attorneys Kirsten Lilly and C.J. Reid from the Veterans Advocacy Clinic, undergraduate social work student Tatum Storey, as well as Professors Valena Beety (WVIP Director) and Jennifer Oliva (VAC Director).

Programming comes in all shapes and sizes, but its importance speaks volumes for the future of inmates. With the decline in prison programming, the West Virginia Innocence Project and the Veterans Advocacy Clinic recognized that programing to help incarcerated veterans with Veterans Administration (VA) benefits, such as disability compensation and discharge upgrades, was one thing the clinics could do to help fill this void by aiding specific inmates with their issues and by providing inmates with the resources and knowledge necessary to help themselves. 

Tyler County Circuit Courthouse

WVIP Students Visit Tyler County, WV

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.

Incarcerating US Panel

Screening of "Incarcerating US" and re-entry panel

Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a film screening of the documentary Incarcerating US, an event sponsored by the Black Law Student Association and WVU Law’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter. The film explored many aspects of the American criminal justice system, but focused primarily on our nation’s growing prison problem. With a prison population of 2.3 million people, the United States of America has the largest prison population in the world today. While the United States represents only about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, our nation houses 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. These statistics should alarm us all.

Incarcerating US attempted to explain the causes of American prison overpopulation by highlighting the failures of two major policies crafted during the 1970s – the “War on Drugs” and the implementation of mandatory minimum sentences. The film featured a multitude of persuasive examples that argued that the “War on Drugs” unjustifiably shifted the attention of law enforcement investigation from high-level drug producers and suppliers to common drug users. Further, by statutorily requiring judges to sentence drug offenders to a mandatory minimum sentence, the film argued that the legislature removed the ability of judges to evaluate sentencing on a case by case basis. Coupled together, these two policies resulted in the increase of non-violent drug offenders being sentenced to lengthy prison terms in numbers that have grown exponentially over the past forty years.