After securing the exonerations of two Mississippi women earlier this year, Valena Beety is poised to help many more people with innocence claims in her new role as Director of the West Virginia University Innocence Project, a recently formed legal clinic affiliated with the Innocence Network, according to West Virginia’s
Leigh Stubbs and Tammy Vance were wrongfully convicted in 2001 of an aggravated assault, based largely on fraudulent bite mark analysis, after a third female travel companion was found injured and unconscious in a hotel room. Beety argued that the original prosecutors failed to turn over favorable evidence for the defense.
“You get to feel great about what you do — push through all the obstacles that are in your way,” Beety said. “And when you get someone out of prison, it’s amazing.”
Beety and attorney Kristen McKeon will handle the bulk of the casework while the clinic’s four law students will screen potential clients. When screening applicants, the students will consider the credibility of the applicant and whether there is likely to be evidence that would conclusively prove innocence.
Since the clinic is relatively new, Betty said she has been reaching out to prisons, public defender offices and other avenues for leads on potential cases.
the Innocence Network