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West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals comes to Charles Town

About 450 Eastern Panhandle high school students in the audience heard arguments in four actual criminal cases

March 27, 2012|By RICHARD F. BELISLE | richardb@herald-mail.com
  • The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, from left: Justice Margaret L. Workman, Justice Robin Jean Davis, Chief Justice Menis E. Ketchum II, Justice Brent D. Benjamin and Justice Thomas E. McHugh heard arguments in a total of four cases with an audience of local students in Jefferson County Circuit Court Tuesday morning as part of court's Legal Advancement for West Virginia Students (LAWS) program.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — While Berkeley Springs (W.Va.) High School seniors Tamar Sparks and Kayla Munday thought the defense attorney “stood up to the court really well,” his client “should have stayed in jail.”

Sparks and Munday were among about 450 Eastern Panhandle high school students in the audience Tuesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court as the five justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals heard arguments from both sides in four actual criminal cases.

It was the 12th time the justices heard cases around the state since the LAWS — Legal Advancement for West Virginia Students — program was launched in 1998, said Justice Robin Jean Davis, the current court’s longest serving justice.

The justices first visit was in 1999 in Raleigh County. They came to Martinsburg, W.Va., in 2004.

The program teaches students what the high court does, and how it operates, Davis said.

In 1996, residents in the Eastern and Northern panhandles complained that state officials in Charleston ignore the panhandles. The justices agreed that every year they would hold court in one of the state’s 31 circuits.

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Tuesday’s session in Jefferson County was the justices’ 12th visit.

“Next year, we’ll go somewhere in the southwestern part of the state,” Davis said.

She said local school leaders support the program.

Teachers whose classes participate take training sessions with supreme court personnel. They are given exercises for their students and summaries of the cases the students will hear. Local lawyers volunteer to discuss the cases with the students before each is heard and debrief them afterward.

The four cases heard Tuesday were:


Monogalia County — Petitioner Brian John Stone was involved in a multivehicle accident in which five people were killed. He was convicted and sentenced for DUI third or subsequent offense; five convictions for DUI recklessly causing death; seven for DUI causing injury; and five for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

His appeal is based on double jeopardy grounds and court errors.

Students from Musselman and Jefferson high schools heard that case.

Kanawha County — Petitioner Tony Curtis Myers was convicted and sentenced to 60 years on three counts of armed robbery. He is seeking a reversal or new trial claiming illegal arrest search and seizure.

He also asserts his double jeopardy right was violated because he was convicted of three counts of robbery. He robbed three people, a clerk in a convenience store and two customers in the store at the time.

Students from Martinsburg High School heard that case.

Clay County — Petitioner Karen Tanner, convicted of manufacturing a controlled substance. She is arguing that conditions of her parole bar her from visiting her husband who is in prison on similar charges. She claims it constitutes a burden on her marriage.

Students from Berkeley Springs High School heard that case.

Fayette County — Petitioner Henry C. Jenkins is serving a life term for convictions of felony murder and child neglect resulting in death for giving his 14-year-old son oxycodone. Jenkins lawyer argued that the state failed to prove that oxycodone caused the child’s death because other drugs also were found in his body.

Students from Washington and Hedgesville high schools heard that case.

Middle-school students from St. Joseph School also were in court.

Since 1999, nearly 5,000 high school students have observed appeal hearings before the justices, Davis said.

Presiding Tuesday were Chief Justice Menis E. Ketchum II, and Justices Brent D. Benjamin, Thomas E. McHugh, Margaret Workman and Davis.

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