W.Va. appeals court upholds ruling; Murderer to remain in jail

MORGANTOWN — A murderer will remain in jail after the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (WVSCOA) upheld a ruling made in Monongalia County Circuit Court.

Danielle Hilling was sentenced to life without parole for the murder of Ebony Brown on New Year’s Day 2006, following five days of trial.

She petitioned the appeals court, saying the circuit court ruling was wrong in denying her most recent petition for habeas corpus.

Hilling first filed an appeal following her April 2007 conviction. That appeal was refused in May 2008. She followed with a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which was denied without an evidence hearing. The denial was appealed to the WVSCOA, which upheld the lower court’s ruling.

A second petition for writ of habeas corpus was filed in Monongalia County Circuit Court. That petition claimed ineffective counsel in April 2017, and in March, the petition was again denied by Judge Russel Clawges, who oversaw Hilling’s trial.

Reasons behind the denial include a lack of expert opinion or any other testimony to be given at a hearing and a lack of identified evidence to be introduced in support of the petition, the WVSCOA decision said.

The Supreme Court found all three of Hilling’s claims — that the circuit court erred in denying a motion to expand the record, finding an omnibus hearing was unnecessary and denying habeas — invalid.

“The circuit court thoroughly addressed each of these three claims in its order denying petitioner habeas relief,” the order states.

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