Supreme Court rejects appeal of Lunsford decision

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia has denied a request to re-evaluate the conviction of a Lewis County woman found guilty for the death of her 3-year-old daughter.

Lena Lunsford Conaway was sentenced in July 2018 to life in prison without parole for the 2011 death of Aliayah Lunsford. A Lewis County jury found Lunsford guilty of murder, child abuse and concealment of a deceased body.

Conaway’s counsel Jeremy Cooper submitted an appeal to the state Supreme Court contesting multiple parts of the trial, with the first issue being how two of Conaway’s daughter described the events surrounding Aliayah’s death.

The daughters said in court testimonies that Conaway struck Aliayah in the head with a bed slat, and Conaway attempted CPR on Aliayah with no success.

“Petitioner argues that the testimony of K.C. and D.C. must be disregarded as such testimony was inherently improbable and incredible,” the Supreme Court said in a memo issued Thursday. “However, as noted by respondent, the testimony of the girls does not ‘contradict physical laws,’ which is required to find testimony inherently improbable/incredible.”

Conaway’s petition also argued she was tried for double jeopardy by being sentenced separately for the death of a child by a parent by child abuse and the lesser offense of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury. The court found “no merit” in the argument.

Justices also struck down arguments about the Lewis County Circuit Court denying Conaway’s requests for a new trial, jury pool consultant and motion to change venue. The court also rejected that the court erred in denying Conaway’s objection to the burden-shifting arguments made by the prosecutor in their opening and closing remarks.

Conaway also argued the circuit court failed to give “sufficient consideration to petitioner’s post-trial motions,” acted in a manner of prejudice and had improper reporting equipment. The Supreme Court rejected all arguments.

All five members of the court signed the memorandum.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey supported the court’s decision in a press release.

“We are very pleased that the state Supreme Court has seen fit to affirm the defendant’s conviction and punishment. I also commend the work of our Appellate Division for helping see that justice is served for Aliayah,” he said.

“In a case that caused so much grieving, mourning and longing for answers, hopefully this decision helps begin the process of providing some lasting peace for those who loved this wonderful child.”

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