Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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Davie Hurt Trial

April 15, 2011

February 3, 2009: Man convicted of ’95 murder seeks new trial, release

PRINCETON — A Bluefield man convicted of murder more than a decade ago sought a habeas corpus ruling Monday that would lead to a new trial and his release from prison.

Davie Lee Hurt, now incarcerated at Mount Olive Correctional Center in Fayette County, appeared in Mercer County Circuit Court before Judge Omar Aboulhosn. His attorney, Charleston attorney Richard E. Holicker, had filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

Hurt. then a juvenile, said in court documents that he was speaking on the telephone with his girlfriend when Freddie Lester, who worked at the Rich Oil Station — also known as the Red Head station — on Bluefield Avenue was shot and killed during a robbery on Aug. 21, 1995.

At the time of the murder, Michael Hopkins, new serving a life sentence at Mount Olive, said that Hurt was a participant. Hopkins later became “remorseful over having falsely fingered him (Hurt) and was prepared to tell the truth; that he had acted alone and that Mr. Hurt had had nothing to do with the murder," Holicker said in his petition.

 After Hurt decided to proceed with his case in an adult court, he was tried in Sept. 1997 in Mercer County Circuit Court, Holicker said in his brief. The jury hung with a vote 10-2 in favor of acquittal, and a mistrial was declared.

Hurt’s counsel at that time petitioned for a change in venue, citing the publicity focused on the first trial. The change in venue was granted; however, the case was moved to Pocahontas County, which was “virtually devoid of African American residents and home to a neo-Nazi white supremacist organization called The National Alliance,” Holicker said.

On May 29, 1998, a jury in Pocahontas County Circuit Court found Hurt. guilty of first-degree murder with a recommendation of life in prison with mercy.

During Monday's hearing at the Mercer County Courthouse Annex, Prosecuting Attorney Timm Boggess  said that the law required petitions of habeas corpus to be heard either where the person was tried and sentenced or where that person is incarcerated. Holicker said that Mercer County was where the case should be heard.

Judge Aboulhosn ordered that the case he sent back to Pocahontas County. He said the order would be made within “the next 24 hours."

“While I’m opposed to any transfer, Pocahontas County is the wrong place," Holicker said. After the hearing, he spoke with Hurt’s family about the judge’s decision. In Pocahontas County Circuit Court, the case could be dismissed without a hearing, but only if there is no “cognizable” claims. If the petition is denied or the Pocahontas judge refuses to hear the case, it could he referred to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.

“He is innocent. He’s been innocent all the time," said Hurt’s mother, Juanita Hurt. “We hope that justice prevails in Pocahontas County.”

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