Free After 20 Years, Woman Sues Ohio

     COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) – After serving 20 years in prison on a conviction of poisoning her husband, a woman says the judge who convicted her “ordered her immediately released from prison based on newly discovered evidence” that her husband committed suicide.
     Virginia LeFever sued Ohio in Franklin County Court.
     She was charged with murdering her husband William LeFever, in 1988. He died of suicide 5 days before their divorce was to become final, not of amytriptyline poisoning, as the coroner said, but of arsenic, Virginia says.
     She says she was “found guilty of, but did not plead guilty to, the murder of her husband following a bench trial in the Licking County Court of Common Pleas.”
     LeFever also sued the Licking County Coroner’s Office in a separate complaint in Licking County Court, which describes her husband’s suicide.
     The LeFevers separated in 1988 and the final divorce proceeding was scheduled for Sept. 27 that year, “five days after William died,” according to the Licking County complaint.
     That complaint continues: “There was evidence presented that shortly before his death, William was despondent and contemplated suicide. William had just learned that his employer was selling his business and the business would be moved out of Licking County. William was concerned that due to his poor work attendance, he would be fired. There was additional evidence presented that William had contemplated suicide. Virginia testified at the trial that shortly after she filed for divorce, William prepared a poster indicating he would only live for a short period of time. He scrawled messages on mirrors for her to see, including: ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, there is no way I can live without you.'”
     The complaint then describes William’s gruesome death, which the coroner’s office attributed to amytriptyline poisoning. Virginia says that was incorrect, that he actually died of arsenic poisoning.
     Virginia was arrested on Dec. 1, 1988, and convicted of aggravated murder in February 1990.
     She served more than 20 years. She says in her complaint in Franklin County that her “wrongful conviction was based on false testimony provided by James Ferguson, the former Chief of Toxicology of Franklin County, Ohio who has since been convicted of falsification.
     “William LeFever’s death was not caused by Ms. LeFever and, indeed, was not committed by any person because it was, in fact, a suicide, and not a murder,” the complaint states.
     “In November 2010, Judge Weist, the same judge who presided over Ms. LeFever’s trial more than twenty years before, granted Ms. LeFever’s motion for a new trial and ordered her immediately released from prison based on newly discovered evidence, thereby vacating her wrongful conviction.”
     LeFever says that “even before much of the evidence that led to (her) exoneration was uncovered through a civil action she brought in 2005 to have her husband’s official cause of death changed to reflect his actual cause of death, United States District Judge John D. Holschuh wrote that ‘if this court were deciding the guilt or innocence of the [Ms. LeFever] de novo, the court would find there is reasonable doubt as to [Ms. LeFever’s] guilt.'” (Brackets in complaint.)
     LeFever seeks a declaration that she was a “wrongfully imprisoned individual.”
     She is represented with Rex Elliot of Cooper and Elliot.

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