Makeia Jonese came to the West Virginia University College of Law three years ago with one goal: to become a prosecutor.
Now, after a successful law school career, the 2021 graduate has her dream job.
After graduation, Jonese is moving to South Carolina to serve as a state prosecutor for the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in Beaufort. The office is the chief prosecuting agency for five counties, handling around 5,000 cases a year.
Duffie Stone is the long-time head of the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office. He has created a Career Criminal Unit that targets violent and habitual offenders, and he adopted intelligence-led prosecution, which uses technology to better understand and combat criminal activity.
“I knew exactly what I wanted to do after law school, so when I saw an opening with an innovative organization like the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, I jumped at the opportunity,” Jonese said. “This is the perfect chance for me to gain trial experience and to learn and grow as a prosecutor as I begin my career.”
Makeia Jonese, No.2 in the front row right, on the women's soccer team at Davis and Elkins College.
Jonese’s law career path began as an undergraduate at Davis and Elkins College, where she ambitiously earned two bachelor’s degrees in criminology and marketing. Her drive and determination also played out on the soccer field, earning All-Conference Academic Athlete honors four years in a row with the NCAA Division II Senators.
In 2018, Jonese’s competitive spirit led her to become Miss West Virginia Association of Fairs and Festivals. In this role, she traveled the state and honed her poise and public speaking skills.
When she got to WVU Law, Jonese translated those pageantry skills to moot court competitions. She credits having to answer “fishbowl” questions during her pageant days for her success in developing strong oral arguments.
“Moot court has taught me to think fast on my feet, articulate strong arguments, and remain poised throughout a stressful situation,” said Jonese. “A similarity I find amongst athletics, pageantry, and law school competitions is the nerve to challenge myself. Each requires a high level of performance, structure and a competitive spirit. Losses and setbacks are a reality but challenging myself to continue striving for my goals are where I gain the most valuable experiences and am able to grow.”
Jonese didn’t make all her law school goals. She really wanted to win the prestigious in-house George C. Baker Moot Court Competition. In spring 2020, she reached the final round, which is traditionally argued before the Justices of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia. Unfortunately, the competition had to be canceled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
On her way to the Baker Cup final, however, Jonese earned Best Oralist honors. The other finalist, Blake Humphrey, and Jonese were also teammates on WVU Law's 2020 National Moot Court Team, which had advanced to the regional finals.
Because of the extraordinary circumstances of 2020 and their moot court success, Humphrey and Jonese claimed esteemed Baker Cup trophy as “co-champions” and split the winnings.
Jonese served as vice chief justice of the National Moot Court Team. She was also a member of the Executive Board for WVU Law’s chapter of the Federal Bar Association and was active on the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity and the Women’s Leadership Council.
In addition to being active in student life on Law School Hill, Jonese sought out experiences in public service to help prepare her for the career she wanted.
After her 1L year, Jonese worked as a summer law clerk for Senior Judge Irene M. Keeley (WVU J.D. '80) in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. The experience exposed her firsthand to the judicial process and the work of U.S. Attorneys.
The following summer, Jonese worked for Bailey & Wyant, PLLC in Charleston, West Virginia. During the fall 2020 semester, she completed a full-time externship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Michael Stuart, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, has high praise for Jonese.
“I was an especially demanding U.S. Attorney in the interests of the people we represent each day,” he said. “Not only did Makeia display the passion for justice and sense of urgency that I value in my team, but she thrived. Most that clerk for my office play essential supporting roles, but Makeia actually carried the load on several cases including arguing and presenting cases before the federal judiciary.”
Makeia Jonese and former U.S. District Attorney Michael Stuart.
Under supervision in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Jonese helped conduct a federal felony guilty plea, a revocation hearing and a sentencing hearing. She also assisted in federal misdemeanor cases.
“During my externship, I found myself gravitating towards crimes that included victims,” she said. “I want to advocate for those who have been wronged. I want to serve my community and simply be proud of the work I do.”
This realization solidified Jonese’s desire to become a prosecutor. It also made working in the 14th Circuit Solicitor’s Office in South Carolina even more appealing because Solicitor Stone and his team operate a Special Victims Unit to prosecute rapists, domestic batterers and child abusers, and a Victims Center to helps those who have been harmed.
Jonese's passion for law in public service started at a young age.
“My father was the Sheriff of Pocahontas County for two terms which provided me with great insight into the world of criminal law,” she said. “I saw the vital role a prosecutor served in seeking justice and protecting and rebuilding communities. It is exciting work that carries a significant impact.”
According to Jonese, she did not plan on leaving West Virginia so soon after law school, but she is grateful for the opportunities that her home state and WVU Law have provided her as she moves on to the next exciting phase of her life.
She credits several members of the Law School Hill community for helping her on her way, including Jennifer Powell, Charles DiSalvo and John Taylor.
Powell is the director of WVU Law’s Center for Law and Public Service and oversees the externship program and the student pro bono program. DiSalvo is the Woodrow A. Potesta Professor of Law and he taught Jonese’s trial advocacy course. Taylor, interim dean and Jackson Kelly Professor of Law, taught her criminal law course. Both classes set the foundation for her summer work experiences, she says.
Ultimately, however, Jonese gives top credit to Vincent Cardi, Bowles Rice Professor of Law.
“Prior to my decision to come to WVU Law, I met him at Admitted Student’s Day on Law School Hill. Professor Cardi assured me of the opportunities that WVU Law would provide me, and I was excited by that conversation,” Jonese said. “Now I can say he was not wrong. The College of Law has provided me with incredible experiences and receiving my J.D. from WVU was truly one of the best decisions I’ve made.”