Lonnie C. Simmons, Attorney at Law, for claimant.

Barry L. Koerber, Assistant Attorney General, for respondent.


Claimant brought this action for an award pursuant to W.Va Code §14-2-13a for being unjustly imprisoned for more than fifteen years. The Court is of the opinion to make an award in this claim for the reasons set forth below.

The facts giving rise to this claim began on December 28, 1982, when a woman jogging along Kanawha Boulevard in Charleston was violently pushed over a hill and sexually assaulted by a man approaching her from the opposite direction. The victim survived this vicious attack, and on March 10, 1983, claimant Larry David Holdren was arrested for the sexual assault based solely upon the victim identifying his photograph from a photo array. When this nightmare began in his life, he was 27 years of age. The photograph array shown to the victim also included a photograph of claimant's identical twin brother. Claimant was indicted by a Kanawha County Grand Jury on six counts of first degree sexual assault on June 23, 1983, and was subsequently convicted of all six counts on July 16, 1984. On February 21, 1985, claimant was sentenced by Kanawha County Circuit Judge A. Andrew MacQueen to serve ten to twenty years on each count with three of the sentences to be served consecutively with the remaining three sentences. Claimant was incarcerated in the State Penitentiary in Moundsville on March 20, 1985, at which time he was 29 years of age. He was imprisoned at that correctional facility until he was transferred to Mount Olive Correctional Facility on March 20, 1995.

Claimant took every legal avenue available to him in an attempt to gain his freedom while he was incarcerated. He attempted to obtain physical evidence that may have been left by the real assailant to prove that he was innocent of this terrible crime. However, he was unable to obtain the physical evidence necessary to conduct the scientific testing available at that time. Claimant also exhausted all of his rights of appeal, as well as all of his State habeas corpus rights and his federal habeas corpus rights. Unfortunately, all of these efforts failed to provide any legal relief, and claimant remained in prison for a crime he did not commit. In 1997, upon the claimant's request, his attorney secured an agreement with the Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney's office to allow certain physical evidence in this case to be examined by DNA experts. In a report issued on January 25, 1999, by the DNA experts, it was determined that the claimant was not the individual who sexually assaulted the victim. A hearing was held on June 9, 1999, at which the DNA experts who performed the DNA testing testified as to the test results which proved that Larry Holdren was innocent of this crime. The Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney's office had several national experts at this hearing to listen to the testimony and to provide advice on the issues. The next day, June 10, 1999, the Circuit Court of Kanawha County entered an Order reversing claimant's conviction and allowed his release from prison. By Order made and entered on January 4, 2000, the State dismissed the indictment against the claimant. Thus, it was established that the claimant did not commit the offense for which he was imprisoned for over fifteen years. At the time claimant was finally free of this nightmare in his life, he was 44 years of age.

Claimant brought this action in accordance with the provisions of W.Va. Code § 14-2-13a (a), (b), (d), and (e). After reviewing the documentation submitted by the claimant, the Court has determined that he has met the requirements of these sections; therefore, he has an absolute right to a recovery.

The only issue the Court must address is the amount of the award to be granted to the claimant herein. Undoubtedly, claimant suffered an economic loss while imprisoned for over fifteen years of his life. He was 29 years of age at the time of his incarceration and he was 44 years of age when he was finally free of the charges made against him. The testimony adduced at the hearing established that, at the time claimant was arrested in March 1983, he was working on his undergraduate degree expecting to graduate with a four year Bachelor's Degree in December 1983. At the hearing of this matter, claimant presented expert testimony from Roger A. Griffith, an economist, who performed an analysis of expected economic loss on behalf of the claimant. This analysis was performed to demonstrate the range of the wages and benefits claimant lost while imprisoned. Mr. Griffith's analysis concluded that claimant's expected economic loss of wages and benefits ranges from a low figure of $735,370.00 which is based upon the average wages of a worker in Kanawha County, to a high figure of $1,338,827.00 based upon the average wages of a male with a Bachelor's Degree. Mr. Griffith explained during his testimony that he used conservative figures for computing the loss of earnings in this claim; however, these amounts are based upon gross earnings.

The Court reviewed these figures and all other facets of claimant's pecuniary damages which include the past loss of earnings due to incarceration and the impairment of future earnings directly related to the imprisonment of the claimant, as well as the loss of reputation, the loss of liberty, emotional stress, pain and suffering in determining the amount of claimant's award. Furthermore, it must be stated that the majority of claimant's imprisonment was spent at the State Penitentiary in Moundsville, a State facility which had the reputation as being an horrific prison.

The Court is aware that there was a settlement between the claimant and a third party which the Court has taken into consideration in determining the amount of the award to be granted to the claimant. Thus, taking all of the elements of damages into account and considering that any award must reflect what is fair and reasonable to both the claimant and the State of West Virginia, the Court has determined that claimant is entitled to an award of $1,650,000.00.

In accordance with the findings of fact and conclusions of law as stated herein above, the Court is of the opinion to and does make an award to the claimant in the amount of $1,650,000.00.

Award of $1,650,000.00