Recently, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that a woman whose son was killed could not be reimbursed for student loans paid to his university. Donte Newsome was a Marshall University football player who was fatally shot outside of a Huntington nightclub in 2008.
In 2010, Jerel Garner was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years for voluntary manslaughter, carrying a concealed weapon, and wanton endangerment. Newsome’s mother, Angela Smith, then filed a claim with the West Virginia Crime Victims Compensation Fund and the Court of Claims. They would later award her $8,184.99 for funeral and burial costs and medical expenses.
However, Smith also sought reimbursement for Newsome’s student loans. The West Virginia Code defines “lost scholarship” as a “scholarship, academic award, stipend, or other monetary scholastic assistance” awarded to the victim for post-secondary school purposes, who is then usable to use them due to “criminally injurious conduct.” Smith argued that her son’s student loans fell under “other monetary scholastic assistance.” After failing to be reimbursed by the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, she filed a petition for writ of certiorari, and the West Virginia Supreme Court agreed to review the case.
The Supreme Court agreed that student loans fell under the category of “other monetary assistance,” but disagreed that Newsome’s loan situation applied. Justice Allen Loughry, who delivered the opinion, noted that in order for the funds to be reimbursed, at least part of them should not have been used. Newsome had, in fact, used the student loans during semesters prior to his death. Therefore, the Crime Victims Compensation Fund would not need to reimburse the loans.
Regardless of whether the outcome is correct, it is a hard situation for anyone who has lost a loved one. On this, both prosecutors and West Virginia criminal defense attorneys can agree. Violence destroys lives, starting with the victim and the victim’s family and friends. It can also wreak havoc on the lives of the criminal suspect and the suspect’s family, although the public tends to give them less consideration.
The case above may have been straight forward, but that is not true for many violent crimes. In many cases, both parties may be the “victim,” only one victim’s wounds are more serious. That is one reason it is so important for a criminal suspect to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. While every criminal suspect is entitled to representation under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution, representation alone does not ensure that the suspect gets a fair hearing. An attorney with experience in criminal defense, however, will know how to get evidence thrown out of court if it was collected illegally. Oftentimes, police officers will conduct searches without properly obtaining a warrant first — a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment. An experienced attorney might also know how to get testimony stricken if it was clear that the testimony was compelled, rather than given freely and voluntarily. The Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause prohibits coercion of criminal suspects.
Your rights and freedom are too important to entrust to an inexperienced lawyer. Call Wolfe Law Firm, or use our contact form to speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney.