CLARKSBURG — The legal team for a man challenging his imprisonment for the 2001 rape and robbery of an elderly woman likely didn’t accomplish all or most of what they would have wanted at a Thursday court hearing.
But they did achieve one main aim: They got the green light to name, in court, another male whose DNA has only very recently been linked to the crime.
That man, according to Innocence Project Co-Director and former O.J. Simpson lawyer Barry Scheck, is Adam D. Bowers. Though the state hadn’t wanted the name released, Harrison Prosecutor Joe Shaffer and his assistant on this case, Dave Romano, confirmed that was the correct name after it was mentioned in court. And Shaffer also said that Bowers, 27, of Clarksburg, is considered a suspect.
Bowers was a juvenile at the time of the 2001 attack on an 83-year-old woman whose son is a retired Clarksburg policeman.
Scheck hopes members of the public come forward if they have information about Bowers.
But there’s already plenty known about him: He’s a two-time loser in state court, with felony convictions for separate crimes.
He was convicted as an adult in the Nov. 20, 2006, breaking and entering of a Clarksburg smoke shop, and of felony unlawful assault in the Oct. 29, 2009, beating of a woman in a Clarksburg dwelling.
Bowers also previously was convicted of DUI, obstructing, breaking into automobiles and petit larceny.
But the state isn’t ready to concede anything when it comes to the conviction of Buffey.
The defendant pleaded guilty even though his lawyer, a veteran trial attorney, told him to wait on the results of DNA testing, Romano said.
The trial court lawyer testified, according to Romano, that Buffey said at the time that “they’re not going to find my DNA anyway.” Romano also asserted that three or four people said Buffey told them he’d been at the victim’s house. Use of a condom could be a possibility, Romano indicated.
Scheck called out the state for the way it has recently handled queries from defense counsel, and also questioned the pace of the investigation of Bowers.
Romano noted that the Innocence Project and other defense lawyers in this case do good work, and have a singular objective.
The state, though, has the duty of “not only justice for Mr. Buffey, but also the other (suspect) and this 83-year-old woman who’s been raped and robbed,” Romano said.
In a recent court filing, Harrison Circuit Judge Thomas A. Bedell had used the word “posturing” when talking about recent legal filings by both sides. It was clear Thursday that Bedell’s patience is running thin.
The judge at one point told the sides that one of his questions hadn’t been answered over a period of about 15 minutes.
At the end of the proceeding, Bedell also pointed out that the 1 1/2-hour hearing went 50 percent over the time allotted.
Scheck and co-counsel Nina Morrison (also of the Innocence Project), as well as Allan Karlin and Sarah Wagner Montoro of Karlin’s Morgantown law firm, were adamant they should be allowed to depose Bowers.
And Romano, joined by Shaffer for this hearing, was just as unrelenting in saying that the time won’t be ripe for that until Clarksburg Detective Sgt. Jason Snider completes the investigation of Bowers.
Romano, meanwhile, pressed for a time to depose Buffey (as early as next week), a request the defense attorneys seemed to deftly continue to skirt as they raised other issues.
Scheck and his colleagues also continued to push for Buffey to be allowed to withdraw his guilty plea. The state could then try to charge him again if it has a different theory, though Scheck believes that likely will be an unfruitful pursuit.
The defense has proved that Buffey isn’t linked to the case by DNA, and has identified someone else who is, Scheck said.
That should be enough to allow for the withdrawal of the plea, according to Scheck.
Bedell didn’t budge.
Instead, he set a hearing to last from March 27 through March 29 in which the sides can present evidence. And the judge scheduled status conferences for 1:15 p.m. Jan. 16, as well as 10 a.m. Feb. 15.
Buffey, 30, of Clarksburg, is imprisoned at the state’s maximum security Mount Olive Correctional Center. He won’t be eligible for a parole hearing until December 2041.
He’s serving time for first-degree robbery and two counts of first-degree sexual assault, according to prison records.
Buffey watched the proceedings via video conference.