Listen Live
WOL Listen Live
WOL Featured Video


The sexual assault conviction of a well-known civil rights leader is about to be erased from the books because of a little-known aspect of criminal law — and the man’s death.

The man is James L. Bevel, a 71-year-old former Loudoun County resident. He died last December, two months after a judge imposed a 15-year sentence for repeatedly having sex with his daughter, but also after his attorney had filed an appeal. The law in federal court, and most states, is clear: If a defendant dies while his appeal is pending, the entire case is dismissed as if it had never happened.

The most publicized example of “abatement” occurred in 2006, when Enron executive Kenneth L. Lay died about a month after his conviction on numerous counts of securities fraud, before he had been sentenced. The trial judge in Houston threw out the case and also any request for restitution through the criminal case.

The idea behind abatement is that a case being appealed isn’t final. The defendant could still be cleared upon a higher court’s review.

Read more here.