CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Oct. 23 in the case of a Putnam County man who may have wrongly served 15 years in prison for the brutal rape of his then 5-year-old daughter.
Joseph Lavigne Jr. was released from prison last year after now-retired Putnam Circuit Judge O.C. Spaulding granted his habeas corpus petition, finding there was insufficient evidence to convict him. Lavigne was released from prison on bond following that decision.
Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Sorsaia has appealed Spaulding's ruling, asking the court to reinstate the conviction.
In 1996, a Harrison County jury found Lavigne guilty of sexual assault and incest. The trial was moved from Putnam County because of pretrial publicity. Lavigne was sentenced to 22 to 60 years in prison.
In granting Lavigne's petition, Spaulding said the father of three had been denied a fair trial because the victim did not identify her father as her attacker in court. He also found that a jury instruction was improper, and limiting him to four character witnesses fatally harmed his case.
The high court is faced with three issues in the appeal.
First, it must determine if Spaulding was correct that there was insufficient evidence at trial to convict Lavigne, because his daughter didn't identify him at trial as her assailant.