Innocent man convicted of murder, arson exonerated

McDOWELL COUNTY, WV (WOAY) – Fourteen years ago, a McDowell County man was convicted of first degree murder and arson, but he didn’t do it.

Charles Jason Lively was exonerated last week thanks to the West Virginia Innocence Project Law Clinic at WVU.

He was originally sentenced to spend his life behind bars in 2006 and spent much of his time at Mount Olive Correctional Center in solitary confinement. Today, he’s a free man with big plans for the future.

“While he was in prison, he reconnected with a person that he went to high school with, so he and his now fiancé are going to live in North Carolina,” said program director Melissa Giggenbach. “He’s an accomplished writer. He wrote a book called Circumstantial Evidence while he was in prison and I believe he’s going to write a follow-up to that.”

The Innocence Project only represents those completely innocent of the crimes they were convicted of. Inmates can apply on their website or request an application by mail to P.O. Box 6130 Morgantown, WV 26506.

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Kassie Simmons joined the team in January 2019 as a weekend journalist. She graduated from Virginia Tech in just two and a half years with a BA in multimedia journalism. During her short time at Virginia Tech, she served as the editor for the university’s chapter of The Tab. Kassie was named the top reporter for The Tab at Virginia Tech on multiple occasions and made the list for the top 30 reporters for The Tab in the U.S. She also studied theater performance and minored in creative writing. Before coming to WOAY, Kassie interned at WSLS in Roanoke and the Tidewater Review in her hometown of West Point, Va. She has loved following breaking news since her childhood and has a passion for delivering the stories people care most about. Kassie is excited to be working in Southern West Virginia and looks forward to all the adventures ahead of her. You can follow her on Twitter at @KassieLSimmons and like her page on Facebook. If you have a story you think she should check out, send her an email at