Lazzell Case

West Virginia

West Virginia Exonerees

While the WVIP is the first project of its kind in the state, its establishment in 2012 also represents a continuation of the work undertaken by the attorneys who represented the six individuals who have, so far, been exonerated in West Virginia. Learn more about their stories, and read about their cases, at the national Innocence Project’s West Virginia page.


Falsified or flawed forensic science are some of the most common factors in the conviction of an innocent person. In West Virginia, the most notable incidence of forensic fraud involved Dr. Fred Zain, a former serologist at the West Virginia State Police Crime Lab. From 1979 to 1989, Zain, who passed away in 2002, frequently testified for the prosecution about his analysis of blood and semen samples taken from crime scenes. His forensic testimony helped send over one hundred violent offenders to prison. In 1993, a special inquiry ordered by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals revealed that Zain – a frequent witness for the prosecution – not only lied about his qualifications under oath but also regularly fabricated and manipulated forensic evidence. These findings led to the invalidation of hundreds of tests conducted by Zain and entitled many prisoners to new hearings.