County of Conviction: PutnamConvicted of: 1 count of sexual abuse; 1 count of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury; one count of incestSentence: 20-40 years
Time Served: 20 years
WVIP Involvement: Client, DNA testing
In January 1997, Mr. Lavigne was convicted of one count each of sexual abuse in the first degree, child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, and incest. No physical DNA evidence was submitted at Mr. Lavigne’s trial. In fact, the only evidence on which to convict Mr. Lavigne was the inconsistent and inconclusive testimony of the victim, his six-year-old daughter. In November 2013, the West Virginia Innocence Project accepted Mr. Lavigne’s case of innocence, and filed a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus in the Southern District of West Virginia on behalf of Mr. Lavigne. Currently, a decision on the federal habeas is stayed – allowing for ongoing DNA testing (the WVIP is also representing and assisting Mr. Lavigne on the DNA testing). The West Virginia Innocence Project is currently having a forensic lab conduct DNA testing in hopes of showing Mr. Lavigne’s DNA does not match the DNA present on the relevant evidence, ultimately proving Mr. Lavigne’s innocence of the crimes for which he was convicted.
Joe's story was recently featured in West Virginia University's magazine. You can find the story here. You can also listen to the Sparked Podcast to learn more about his case.