HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Early one summer morning in 2009, Leon Adamy was walking out of his home when he heard three gunshots ring out from his neighbor's house across the street. Each shot, he said, was followed by a groan.
A year later, a Webster County jury found Julia Surbaugh guilty of murdering her husband, Michael, who was shot twice in the face and once in the head with a .22 caliber pistol.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Marshall University students got their first taste of criminal court proceedings as part of a West Virginia Supreme Court effort in different parts of the state to generate interest in the appeals system.
The Surbaugh case was one of three the justices picked to hear in front of the students at MU's Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center. For much of the morning, the theater was packed nearly to capacity.
"We want students to see how the judicial system works," Chief Justice Menis E. Ketchum II said. "We want them to be exposed to more than just books."
Surbaugh was sentenced to life in prison in the murder of her husband, a former teacher who was forced to resign from the school system after he was caught with marijuana on school grounds.
In her petition for appeal, she alleged that the judge who heard the case made several errors that swayed the verdict, including a refusal to give jury instructions highlighting evidence that Michael Surbaugh emotionally abused her during their rocky marriage, according to her lawyer, Richard H. Lorensen.
Surbaugh argued that on the morning of the slaying, her husband approached her with the weapon, and she shot him twice after she managed to wrest it from him.
Also Tuesday, the justices heard arguments in a civil case in which a judge found that a man negligently provided alcohol to a group of teens and indirectly caused the death of a Jefferson County girl, who died in a car accident later that night.
The family of 14-year-old Jessica Staubs sued Jonathan Ray Marcus, 18, after he drove the girl, her friend and Steve Woodward, 25, to the store to buy alcohol. Woodward was convicted of buying several bottles of malt liquor and vodka for the girls. According to Marcus' lawyer, Tracy Rohrbaugh, there is no evidence that Marcus did anything more than simply drive Woodward and the two teens to the store.
According to Rohrbaugh, the girls chugged the drinks at a friend's house and stole a car. The teen driver lost control of the vehicle and struck an embankment. Staubs was killed on impact.