Jan. 15th, 2013

snousle: (takoguma)
There is yet another strange and unusual thing in our lives right now. This time it's not my drama, but Bill's. He's given me the OK to talk openly about this, because I have a wide net and might come up with some interesting leads. So here we go.

Bill was disposing of some old papers last week when one got away and floated off to the side. He picked it up, and it was something from his army days - orders for himself and one of his buddies. The name was Joeseph Lavigne.

Well, this being the Internet age, he did a Web search, and boy did he turn up a whopper. It seems that Joe was convicted for the rape of his five year old daughter, about fifteen years ago. Trouble is, it seems pretty clear that he didn't do it.

Long story short: the testimony of his daughter at the time was confused, because the assailant "looked like daddy", and there was no physical evidence to be had. But the jury convicted him anyway. There's some relationship with another murder trial in which he and his wife were to provide testimony against someone named Mark Berry, but I don't totally understand it all right now.

A circuit court overturned the conviction last year, due to the lack of evidence and the fact that his daughter, who is now around 20, said that it definitely wasn't him. Everyone in his family testified in his defense.

Then, the Supreme Court of West Virginia re-tried him, and convicted him again. He's now back in jail, probably for the rest of his life. The reason for this absolutely shocked me to my core. In the words of Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia:

"And that's what bothered me about this case was it was reversed, quite frankly, on issues of fact. In my opinion that kind of usurped the authority of a jury -- in our country juries decide who's guilty and who's not, not judges or prosecutors," Sorsaia said.

That's from this news summary.

I had to read this about ten times. He was bothered that the case was reversed on issues of fact. I guess facts don't matter when set against the judgment of twelve random jurors.

Anyway, it's long and complicated, and it's more than I have been able to absorb just now. But this is now Bill's main obsession, and he's considering ways in which the governor of West Virginia might be persuaded to issue a pardon.

There is a smattering of information available on the Web - pretty much any search containing "West Virginia" and "Joeseph Lavigne" will come up with relevant details, including the PDF transcript of the trial in which the original conviction was overturned.

It's a fascinating but very sad thing to read about. If you feel like getting spun up over the injustices of the American court system, you couldn't find a better example. Any thoughts on this you might have are welcome, and I will relay them to Bill for his perusal.

A couple relevant links:
http://crimeseekers.net/forums/archive/index.php/t-5325.html
http://www.courtswv.gov/supreme-court/calendar/2012/briefs/oct12/11-0853order.pdf

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