CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Kanawha County judge who said last week that she mistakenly dismissed a case and caused the release of a man who tried to kidnap a woman's child in South Charleston has shifted blame for the error to the county circuit clerk's office.
In a news release issued Sunday evening, Kanawha Circuit Judge Carrie Webster said that she "inadvertently took responsibility for the mistaken release" of Jeremy Carter during a phone interview with the Gazette and instead pinned the foul-up on the circuit clerk staffer who issued the man's jail release form.
Carter, who faces felony attempted kidnapping charges and has admitted to habitually suffering bouts of aggressive psychosis, was arrested on Riverside Drive in South Charleston shortly after 6 p.m. Monday, South Charleston Police Chief Brad Rinehart said.
"It is undisputed that Mr. Carter would NOT have been released if the [South Central Regional Jail] had not received a jail release form from the circuit clerk advising that the attempted kidnapping case was dismissed," Webster said in the release.
The judge said Friday that she was attempting to clear her docket of cases she believed were inactive when she issued a blanket order that dismissed the entirety of Carter's case. She said she was trying to dismiss an irrelevant motion for a psychiatric evaluation, but did not know that the order would affect the main case number in Carter's court file.
But Webster said Monday that her order specified she was dismissing a miscellaneous case number attached to the main file. A circuit clerk staff member, however, issued the jail release form without her permission, incorrectly informing Carter that the whole case had been dropped, she said.
"At the very least, there should have been communication with the court regarding its intent, particularly since the underlying felony number WAS NOT contained in the dismissal order," Webster said.
Kanawha County Circuit Clerk Cathy Gatson pointed out that the miscellaneous case numbers, or case numbers that are created once the criminal action is "bound over" to the circuit court for grand jury review, have always been intertwined with the main case.
"I don't believe our office misconducted itself in any way," Gatson said.
Gatson said that prosecutors usually prepare motions for dismissal orders, and that the circuit clerk's office prepares jail release forms under the assumption that the parties in the case, and the judge, are aware of the effect a dismissal order will have.