Justices asked a number of questions about Spaulding's ruling that a jury instruction improperly allowed them to convict Lavigne without the child's in-court identification.
The jury instruction during the 1996 trial told the jury that the child's uncorroborated testimony, if believed, was sufficient to convict.
Justice Brent Benjamin asked Lavigne's attorney, Greg Ayers, why he believed Spaulding's ruling that Lavigne shouldn't have been limited to four character witnesses was a correct one.
"Where do we draw the line -- four, six, eight?" Benjamin asked. "And where is the constitutional issue?"
Ayers told Benjamin that the defendant has a Sixth Amendment right to present a defense and his character was the only defense available, because of the circumstances of the case.
"There's an old saying that there is strength in numbers," Ayers said.
Ketchum replied, "There's another old saying, one good witness is better than 100 bad ones," drawing laughter from the gallery.
To be entitled to habeas corpus relief a defendant must show a violation of his constitutional rights as opposed to simply a legal error at trial.
McHugh asked Ayers how his arguments rose to a constitutional level.
"The jury instruction lacked a material element of the crime, namely identification of the defendant as the person who committed the crime," Ayers said.
The hearing in Lavigne's case was one of four heard by the court Tuesday. Since the session was attended by high school and college students, justices introduced each case so attendees could be familiar with the facts.
Lavigne attended Tuesday's argument with several family members, not including the daughter at the center of the rape case.
"It's very nerve-wracking going before the court again," Lavigne said after the arguments. "I think it went fairly well."
Reach Kate White at kate.wh...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.