Delbert L. Coleman



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 occurred.
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 denied.