Woman Says She Was Wrongly Convicted


UPDATED: Wednesday November 17, 2010 11:04 PM

If there was ever a question about whether words have power, the walls of prison and the story of Virginia LeFever are proof.

"I was a suburban mom with kids and brownies," LeFever said.

LeFever's life changed 20 years ago when the state put her behind bars, based mostly on a toxicologist's report.  James Ferguson was Franklin County's chief toxicologist and was a star witness for prosecutors against LeFever, who was on trial for poisoning her husband, William.

SPECIAL SECTION: 10 Investigates

The only problem is that Ferguson lied, 10 Investigates' Paul Aker reported.

"I am still trying to understand why anybody would do this," LeFever said.

Ferguson said that he graduated from The Ohio State University in 1972.  According to university transcripts, Ferguson graduated in 1988, two years before LeFever's trial.

The lie finally caught up with him in the spring when he admitted to a misdemeanor for lying.

"I did misrepresent the year I graduated," Ferguson said.

Previously, 10 Investigates uncovered information that showed serious questions about whether Ferguson really should have graduated.

After his conviction, 10 Investigates turned up college transcripts that showed Ferguson failing basic courses in his biochemistry major.   He received Ds in several other classes.

An OSU biochemistry professor with the university since 1965 said that Ferguson's transcripts showed he missed other required classes.  

Veteran Ohio State professor Edward Behrman (emeritus) said that anyone else who had Ferguson's credentials would have no chance of getting a degree.

LeFever said that she did not receive a fair trial.  Ferguson testified that he found strychnine recently inserted in William LeFever, along with a lethal dose of antidepressant pills, crushed up and injected into the victim.

Ferguson's testimony was different from the observations of other medical people who treated William LeFever. 

Ferguson's theory was bitterly contested by LeFever's attorneys as unsupported by science.  They also argued that William LeFever, a longtime drug addict, overdosed.

"Ferguson just made this up," Virginia LeFever said.  "Medically, scientifically, it's impossible, but here I am (in prison)."

Ferguson would not shed any light on the case and is trying to stay away from 10 Investigates' cameras and questions.

"If I had told the lies he told and done the damage that's he's done, I wouldn't want to tell anyone," Virginia LeFever said.  "I just think he's a sad, pathetic little man."

Virginia LeFever said that it is trying not to let Ferguson consume her thoughts.  Instead, she hopes that authorities will conduct a thorough review of every case Ferguson touched in his 26 years.

She also said that she hopes a judge will look at the facts and grant her a new trial.

"I should get a new trial because the primary witness for the State of Ohio lied about his credentials and we now know that he was not qualified to give the opinion he gave," Virginia LeFever said.

Licking County prosecutor Kenneth Oswalt declined to comment on our story until a judge rules about whether Virginia LeFever will get a new trial.

Wednesday at 11 p.m., 10 Investigates exposes new lies that Ferguson told at another trial.  Learn about the case and hear from a young man who has spent the past seven years in prison based on Ferguson's testimony.
 

Previous Stories:

September 30, 2010: College Degree By Former Expert Witness Comes Into Question
May 13, 2010:  Former Toxicologist Sentenced For Lying About Credentials
April 28, 2010:  Testimony Of Key Witness Calls Murder Conviction Into Question