IN THE COURT OF CLAIMS OF THE STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA
IN THE MATTER OF:
Delbert L. Coleman
O R D E R
Claimant appeared in person and by counsel, Gloria M. Stephens, Attorney at Law.
Joy M. Bolling, Assistant Attorney General, for the State of West Virginia.
An application of the claimant, Delbert L. Coleman, for an award under the West Virginia
Crime Victims Compensation Act, was filed June 15, 1999. The report of the Claim Investigator,
filed February 23, 2000, recommended that no award be granted, to which the claimant filed a
response in disagreement. An Order was issued on April 19, 2000, upholding the Investigator's
recommendation and denying the claim, in response to which the claimant's request for hearing was
filed May 15, 2000. This matter came on for hearing November 7, 2002, claimant appearing in
person and by counsel, Gloria M. Stephens, Attorney at Law, and the State of West Virginia by
counsel, Joy M. Bolling, Assistant Attorney General.
On March 2, 1999, the 30-year-old claimant was assaulted by the offender, Vernon Wood,
who struck him in the head with a liquor bottle and then used the neck of the broken bottle to stab him multiple times. The offender was charged with malicious assault.
The motive for the assault, according to the claimant, was that a week before the incident, "the
welfare department was notified that he (Mr. Woods) was neglecting his kids and...they took his kids
out of his home and it was by one of my family members who had the kids taken out." The
claimant's sister-in-law had made the report. (Transcript, page 6.) The claimant stated, "I just
thought it was dirty of him to neglect his kids... T
here was about three or four of us standing there
talking. They asked my opinion and that was my opinion of it." (Transcript, page 14.)
When asked if he had been drinking prior to the incident, the claimant admitted that, 30
minutes to an hour before, he had consumed "a few shots of liquor...five maybe." (Transcript, pages
10-11.) He had also smoked pot and ingested opiates the day before (Transcript, page 11-12). The
claimant was then asked about a witness statement in the police report indicating that he had thrown
his beer bottle down. The claimant replied, "Yeah. I threw my beer bottle down and I was turning
around walking away." (Transcript, page 13.)
Also testifying was Shannon Coleman, the claimant's sister-in-law (but not the one who
notified the authorities about the alleged child neglect). She stated that on the day in question, she
and her youngest son accompanied her stepmother to her father's residence for a cookout.
(Transcript, page 23.) Her father, brother, her father's friend, and her brother-in-law were present.
(Transcript, page 24.) Ms. Coleman stated that she saw the offender, Vernon Coleman, come across
the street from his house. The victim, Delbert Coleman, was in the road with everyone else behind
her father's car. (Transcript, page 24.) She heard Vernon ask Delbert what he thought of the welfare
system, and also heard the ensuing argument. (Transcript, page 26.) Ms. Coleman testified that she
told Vernon, "He's drunk (Delbert). Will you please leave." (Transcript, page 27.) She also tried to get Delbert to go into the house. As he (Delbert) approached her, he threw his beer bottle at a tire
on her brother-in-law's car, and the bottle "busted." (Transcript, page 27.) It was then that the attack
In describing its system of compensation for victims of crime, the state Legislature called it
"an expression of a moral obligation of the state to provide partial compensation to the innocent
victims of crime for injury suffered to their person... ." W.Va. Code §14-2A-1 (emphasis supplied).
This Court does not believe that the situation in the instant claim, involving drinking, arguing, and
at least one overt act of what could easily be perceived as aggression (throwing a bottle), is the type
of situation in which a truly innocent person would find himself.
Based on the foregoing, the previous ruling of this Court is hereby upheld, and the claim is