MORGANTON, WEST VIRGINIA - Joseph Lavigne, a client of the West Virginia Innocence Project at the West Virginia University College of Law, has been granted parole. He was released from Huttonsville Correctional Center on November 15 after serving 20 years in prison.
In 1997, Lavigne was convicted of one count each of sexual abuse in the first degree,
child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, and incest. The victim was his
five-year old daughter. For 20 years, she and her mother have maintained Lavigne's
No physical DNA evidence was submitted at Lavigne's trial but witnesses testified that his daughter said she was assaulted by her father. Lavigne argued that his daughter said she was assaulted by a man who looked like her father.
In 2011, then Putnam County Circuit Judge O.C. Spaulding reversed Lavigne’s conviction and ruled that he could be released from prison pending a new trial. The evidence included an affidavit from his daughter stating that her father had not assaulted her. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia overturned that decision, re-instating Lavigne’s sentence and returning him to prison.
The West Virginia Innocence Project accepted Lavigne’s case in 2013 and filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Southern District of West Virginia. The decision on the habeas is stayed, which allows for ongoing DNA testing. The national Innocence Project joined the case to co-represent Lavigne earlier this year.
"We believe Joe's conviction of this crime against his daughter was a miscarriage of justice," said Valena Beety , director of the West Virginia Innocence Project. "Thorough and modern DNA testing can prove his innocence and overturn his conviction."