Last week, Harrison Circuit (W.VA.) Judge Thomas Bedell heard evidence supporting the innocence claim of Joseph Buffey. Buffey was convicted for the robbery and sexual assault of an elderly woman in 2001. Last December, we reported that prosecutors still believed in Buffey’s guilt even though DNA tests excluded Buffey and matched another man, Adam Bowers.
For three days, the state and Buffey’s attorneys (including from the Innocence Project) argued over whether the evidence points to Buffey’s innocence or guilt. The state agrees that Bowers is a suspect but have a theory that there were multiple attackers (even though the victim said there was only one attacker). The local paper reports that: “Buffey took the stand Friday, following testimony earlier in the hearings from his former attorney, Tom Dyer, as well as ex-prosecutor John Scott, two DNA experts and a former appeals attorney. Buffey, 30, of Clarksburg, was adamant that he wasn’t involved and that he didn’t even know Bowers in 2001.”
However, the prosecutor presented testimony that Buffey used to regularly play basketball with Bowers and that Buffey’s girlfriend complained that Bowers made unwanted advances towards her about a month before the crime took place. Despite this testimony, Buffy continued to deny that he know Bowers.
To me, this case hinges on whether the prosecution can convince the judge that there was more than one perpetrator. However, the original conviction rested only on Buffey’s confession, which his attorneys say contained statements inconsistent with the facts. In addition, the victim herself could not identify Buffey, even though the attacker spent several hours with her.