Pursuant to the provisions of W. Va. Code §29-21-6(e), Public Defender Services is authorized to operate an appellate advocacy division. Currently, the division operates with four attorneys, a paralegal, and a legal secretary. The division is unable to accept appointment to every appeal from a criminal prosecution and asks that appointments be made when significant constitutional or other legal issues exist, and the resolution of the issue will establish encompassing precedent. If appointment of the appellate advocacy division is desired, the judge’s office should first contact the agency to discuss the possibility.
CRYSTAL L. WALDEN, DIRECTOR
Crystal L. Walden graduated from Capital University Law School in 1998. Crystal is the Director of the Appellate Advocacy Division. Crystal's previous experience included her services as a trial lawyer in the State of Ohio's Franklin County Public Defender's office and as attorney in the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Public Defender Corporation. During her tenure in the Kanawha County Public Defender Corporation, she worked for 8 years in the appellate division. Send email
Justin M. Collin is an attorney in the Appellate Advocacy Division. He received his undergraduate degree from Shepherd College and his law degree from WVU University College of Law. After graduation, he served as a law clerk for the Honorable Irene C. Berger for two years and then spent ten years as a trial lawyer for the Kanawha County Public Defender Corporation. His trial accomplishments include obtaining an acquittal in a stolen vehicle case where the client was caught driving the stolen vehicle with the ignition punched out. He also successfully argued a motion for judgement of acquittal for a client charged with kidnapping and felony murder. In his spare time, he enjoys woodworking and dressing up his festively plump cat. Send email
Gary Collias holds a J.D. from West Virginia University College of Law and a B.A. in Political Science from Marshall University. Since graduation from law school, he has focused on labor law, plaintiff’s personal injury law, consumer bankruptcy, and federal and state criminal defense practice. Gary was awarded the Southern District Criminal Justice Act Panel Attorney of the Year Award in 2016 and notably tried a six week-long Federal death penalty case in Charleston in 2007 (U.S. v. Valeri Friend). He has served as member of the West Virginia State Election Commission and chaired the commission from 2016 to 2018. Gary joined Public Defender Services as Appellate Counsel in 2021. Send Email
Rhonda Ashworth is the legal secretary for the Appellate Advocacy Division. Her experience includes ten years of service as a deputy clerk in the municipal court system and the administrative management of a family owned business. Before her transfer to Public Defender Services, she was a legal secretary for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Public Defender Corporation. Send email
Blake Collias graduated from West Virginia University in 2017 with a bachelor of science degree in psychology. He serves at West Virginia Public Defender Services as an administrative assistant. He originally started working at West Virginia Public Defender Services as a temporary employee who processed vouchers before becoming a full time employee and transitioning to the role of administrative assistant. He has worked at West Virginia Public Defender Services since 2018. Send email