By legislation that became effective on July 1, 2019, Public Defender Services was authorized to operate a division within the agency to prosecute writs of habeas corpus on behalf of indigent clients in the circuit courts of the state and in the Supreme Court of Appeals. The division has begun operations with four attorneys, a paralegal and an investigator. The division intends to assist judges throughout the state who are unable to find attorneys to take such appointments due to the challenges unique to the habeas corpus process. If appointment of the habeas corpus division to a matter is desired, the judge's office should first contact the agency to discuss the possibility.
Lora G. Walker
Lora is an attorney in the Habeas Corpus Division. She is a graduate of Marshall University and the West Virginia University College of Law. While in law school, Lora worked as a Student Attorney for the West Virginia Innocence Project and served as a summer law clerk for the Honorable Michael J. Aloi, United States Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of West Virginia. She has also been Senior Tech Editor of Family Law Quarterly, worked as the Social Media Liaison for the WVU Law Academic Excellence Center, and was appointed to the WVU Graduate Council, where she served as the law school representative for two years. Lora began working with the Habeas Corpus Division of Public Defender Services in 2019 and specializes in post-conviction work and has the privilege of representing indigent prisoners from all across West Virginia. send email
Gordon Simmons received a Master of Arts degree from Marshall University in 1983. While working at the West Virginia Division of Culture and History in 2001, he began representing public employees and investigating and preparing grievances, doing so full-time from 2008 until 2019. He is now the investigator for the Habeas Corpus Division. send email
Karissa P. Blackburn serves as an attorney in the Habeas Corpus Division. She works on a variety of complex post-conviction habeas corpus matters, including actual innocence, newly discovered evidence, and ineffective assistance of counsel. Previously, Karissa served as a West Virginia Fund for Law and the Public Interest Post-Graduate Fellow at the Kanawha County Public Defender’s office. During her fellowship she consistently argued on behalf of her clients drafting motions and appearing in Charleston Municipal and Kanawha County Family Courts. While at the KCPD office, she successfully obtained mass habeas corpus relief for approximately 20 incarcerated people based on the threat of COVID-19. Karissa received her undergraduate degree from West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism and her law degree from West Virginia University College of Law. While in law school, she, along with her team in the West Virginia Innocence Project, secured a new trial for a client who was wrongfully convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 2007. Karissa is a book worm and enjoys spending time with her yorkie puppy, Judge. send email
Steve Thompson is a Paralegal with Public Defender Services. Steve is a Graduate of West Virginia University and is a retired 20-year veteran Legislative Analyst for the WV House of Delegates. In addition to helping fight for justice, Steve enjoys cooking, gardening and the arts.