An Upshur County man will not receive a new trial after he was sentenced to serve life in prison for murder, according to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Jesse Heater, 32, appealed the original conviction, saying Circuit Court Judge Kurt Hall should not have removed a defense attorney prior to the trial because of a conflict of interest, and that Judge Hall should have required a separate trial to determine whether Heater would be eligible for parole. Heater also argued that Judge Hall should have instructed a woman to remove a button that read “missing” from her shirt before the jury walked in. The button referenced the woman’s missing son.
The state Supreme Court decided to uphold the conviction because it said there was “no reason to believe the motion (to remove the attorney) was made in bad faith.” On the issue of the spectator wearing a button, the state Supreme Court said the spectator was asked to remove the button once the jury had been seated, and that “some of the jurors may have caught a momentary glimpse (of the button), and it may or may not have meant something to them.” The court also said there was no requirement for Judge Hall to hold a separate hearing on Heater’s parole eligibility.
Heater will remain in prison on a life sentence for murder. He was also charged with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to conceal a dead body, and concealment of a dead body, which adds an additional three to 15 years to his life sentence.
Heater shot and stabbed Joshua Oberg, 29, in January 2012. An illegal immigrant from Mexico paid Heater $5,000 to kill Oberg.