State Supreme Court orders a new trial for Youngblood
In a 3-2 ruling, the West Virginia Supreme Court has ordered a new trial for Denver A. Youngblood, Jr.
Youngblood, now 34, was convicted in 2003 of two counts of sexually assaulting a young woman, two counts of brandishing a firearm and one count of indecent exposure in 2000. He is presently serving a 26-to-56 year prison sentence for those crimes.
The U. S. Supreme Court asked the State Supreme Court to reconsider Youngblood's appeal for a new trial, which had originally been turned down. The state justices heard oral arguments when they sat in Romney last month.
Defense Attorney Robert C. Stone based the appeal on claims that the state had withheld evidence – a note that might have helped in Youngblood's defense.
When the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on May 10, Justices Robin Davis, Joseph Albright and Larry Starcher formed the majority that granted the new trial.
Justices Brent Benjamin
and Elliot Maynard dissented.
The facts of the case were laid out in a decision written by Chief Justice Davis.
Youngblood, then 28, was prosecuted for allegedly forcing a 16-year-old girl to perform oral sex on two occasions on the night of July 28, 2000.
Youngblood had brought the victim, referred to as Katara, and two other girls from Hagerstown to his home in Berkeley Springs, where the first sexual assault allegedly took place.
Later he and a friend, Joseph Pitner, took the girls to a home belonging to Pitner's aunt. There, Youngblood and Katara disappeared into a bedroom and the second assault allegedly took place.
The other girls – referred to as Kimberly and Wendy – wrote a message to Pitner on a page of a telephone notebook. Full of obscenities and obvious anger, the note claimed that the two had put laundry detergent in the milk in the refrigerator, thrown away medicines and otherwise vandalized things in the house.
One line said that "Katara said Thanks" to Denver for engaging in oral sex with her.
The home's owner later found the page and showed it to State Trooper A. T. Peer a few days after the alleged sexual assaults. She said Peer told her that it wasn't important to the investigation and that she should throw the paper away. He didn't take it as evidence or tell the prosecutor about it.
The note was later given to Defense Attorney Stone by Pitner's aunt.
Stone argued that since the note included the line "Katara said Thanks," he could have used it to show that the sexual encounter wasn't forced and to contradict the testimony of the girls about what happened that night.
By a narrow 3-2 vote, the State Supreme Court agreed.
At press time, Youngblood was still in prison, with no new trial date yet scheduled.
In addition to the sentence for the sexual assault, Youngblood is also serving one-to-15 years for delivering heroin in an unrelated 2001 incident in which an 18-year-old woman died from a heroin overdose.