CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The public defender's office that represented a St. Albans man convicted of stabbing his sometimes-girlfriend to death had a conflict of interest with a witness in the case that should nullify the trial, the man's new lawyer argued Tuesday before the state Supreme Court.
Clayton Eugene "Gino" Rogers, 53, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2010 and a judge later sentenced him to life in prison. Prosecutors say Rogers stabbed Laura Amos twice in the neck because he was jealous of her involvement with another man. The two were drinking in an abandoned house just outside the St. Albans city limits.
State Supreme Court Justices Brent Benjamin, Margaret Workman, Menis Ketchum and Allen Loughry heard oral arguments Wednesday at West Virginia State University's James C. Wilson Union in front of a crowd packed mostly with students. The foray to the university is part of the court's efforts to generate interest in the state's appeals system.
Rogers' appeals lawyer, Crystal C. Walden, argued that the jury's guilty verdict should be overturned because the Kanawha County public defender's office, which was representing Rogers, also represented one of the state's key witnesses in the case on other felony charges.
The witness, Keith Hubbard, was with Clayton the day Amos was murdered.
Justices appeared to balk at that argument Wednesday, pointing out that the parties held a hearing on the issue during Rogers murder trial and that it's not clear that the conflict of interest affected the course of the trial or the evidence against Rogers.
"Do you really think that a new lawyer would have made a difference in the case?" Justice Margaret Workman said.
Walden also argued that Rogers was "likely in an alcohol-induced blackout" at the time of the killing and did not have the "intent" required to qualify his actions as first-degree murder. She also said that police purposefully delayed transporting Rogers to Kanawha County Magistrate Court for arraignment in order to persuade him to give a statement.
Assistant State Attorney General Benjamin F. Yancy III said that detectives followed the proper protocol after Rogers arrest and gave him a chance to tell his side of the story. Rogers, he said, voluntarily decided to do so.
Also Wednesday, the justices heard arguments in a Mineral County case in which a man argued he was wrongfully convicted of robbing a bank.