The Cabell County judge that overturned the conviction and granted a new trial for a man serving a life sentence for a 1987 murder, refused to set bail today to possibly allow the man to await the new trial out of jail.
Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred Ferguson wrote in an order that Phillip Ward, 51, should get a new trial based on testimony from discredited former West Virginia State Police serologist Fred Zain and new DNA evidence.
Ward was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1987 killing of Carol Carter inside a Wendy’s in Huntington. Carter was a night manager at the restaurant and Ward was one of her employees.
Cabell Prosecuting Attorney Sean Hammers said last week he had decided to appeal Ferguson’s order for a new trial and a notice to appeal was filed last Wednesday with the West Virginia Supreme Court.
Ferguson scheduled Monday’s hearing after Ward’s lawyers, Connor Robertson and Rich Weston, filed a motion for bail. Ward was moved Friday from the maximum-security Mount Olive Correctional Complex to the Western Regional Jail, in Barboursville.
Zain’s body of work was discredited in 1993 by the Supreme Court, which found that the former head of the State Police serology lab gave invalid or false testimony on reports about evidence like blood, skin, hair, fingernails and semen found at crime scenes for more than 10 years. His work has resulted in millions of dollars paid to wrongfully convicted defendants. Zain was awaiting trial on fraud charges when he died of cancer in 2002, at age 52.
Jurors in Ward’s trial heard Zain testify that blood found on money in Ward’s possession had DNA characteristics of Carter and no one else. Zain testified that he was 100 percent certain of his findings. However, subsequent DNA testing by a different lab, requested several years after the trial, showed that there could have been multiple contributors to the blood stains on the bills, Ward’s lawyers have pointed out.
Prosecutors argued in their notice to the Supreme Court that, “The fact that another’s DNA is found on money, which passes through thousands of hands, does not tend to show that the respondent was not guilty.”
Before Carter was robbed and killed, Ward, who was a work-release inmate, didn’t have enough money to pay his bills. However, on the day of her death, Ward not only paid his overdue bills, but he purchased a new car stereo.
Ward contended that his uncle gave him $300 for odd jobs he had done. That testimony, however, was kept from the jury because Ward’s uncle, despite instructions from the judge that witnesses were to leave the courtroom, remained and heard opening statements and testimony favorable to the defendant.
Reach Kate White at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1723 or follow @KateLWhite on Twitter.