Category Archives: Women and the Law

Haunting Testimony

by guest author Melanie Griffin

One West Virginia case made U.S. legal history by a witness with haunting testimony.

In 1897, Elva “Zona” Heaster died under mysterious circumstances. Her doctor first called it an “everlasting faint” (19th century speak for “something just stopped working, we don’t know what”), then changed his ruling to childbirth. He ignored the markings on Zona’s neck and didn’t investigate her head wounds further at the insistence of her new husband, Erasmus Shue.

faded black-and-white photos of unsmiling 19th-century women

L: Zona Heaster Shue, murder victim. R: Mary Jane Heaster, victim’s mother. Photo from the Occult Museum.

Zona’s mother Mary Jane Heaster was suspicious of her son-in-law from the start, but she had no proof to take to court until, she said, Zona told her the truth herself—after the burial.

Mary Jane insisted to the county prosecutor that Zona visited her four consecutive nights after her death and gave her mother all the details about abuse she received from Erasmus. During her final visit, Mary Jane said her daughter gave a detailed account of how Erasmus killed her.

After learning that Erasmus had prevented a true post-mortem exam, the prosecutor ordered an autopsy, which brought up sufficient evidence to take the case to court.

Mary Jane told the court all about her nightly conversations with Zona, making history as the first time a ghost’s statement was allowed as evidence in a trial.

But don’t worry if you’ve made any ghosts mad—she was actually called as a defense witness to make her sound crazy and discredit her testimony. Erasmus was found guilty, based on evidence that was clearly tangible in this realm of existence.

Read news articles from the area and time with transcripts of the testimony, courtesy of the West Virginia Archives and History department.

Faculty Publication Awards

Congratulations to Professors Elizabeth Chambliss and Emily Suski on their articles and to Professor Joseph A. Seiner on his book, all of which were selected by the law school faculty for this year’s Faculty Publication Awards.


Elizabeth Chambliss, Evidence-Based Lawyer Regulation, 97 Wash. U.L. Rev. (2019).

Emily Suski, The School Civil Rights Vacuum, 66 UCLA L. Rev. 720 (2019).


Joseph A. Seiner, Employment Discrimination: Procedure, Principles, and Practice (2d ed. 2019). (Ebook version on publisher website. The law library has ordered a library copy in print, but it is not yet available, due to a change to a new catalog system coinciding with COVID-19 closure.)

Remote Resources for Anti-Racism


Nishaun T. Battle, From Slavery to Jane Crow to Say Her Name: An Intersectional Examination of Black Women and Punishment, 15 Meridians 109 (2016).

Juliet Hooker, Black Lives Matter and the Paradoxes of U.S. Black Politics,  44 Political Theory 448 (2016).


Christopher J. Lebron, The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea (2017).


Brittney Cooper & Treva B. Lindsey, M4BL and the Critical Matter of Black Lives,  41 Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 731 (2018).

Vanessa Williamson, Kris-Stella Trump & Katherine Levine Einstein, Black Lives Matter: Evidence that Police-Caused Deaths Predict Protest Activity, 16 Perspectives on Politics 400 (2018).


Megan Ming Francis, The Price of Civil Rights: Black Lives, White Funding, and Movement Capture,  53 Law & Society Review 275 (2019).

Alcinda Manuel Honwana, Youth Struggles: From the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter & Beyond, 62 African Studies Review 8 (2019).

Memory Hold the Door 2019

“During fall law school orientation, a few biographies from Memory Hold The Door are cited to highlight the professional virtues that law students and lawyers should cultivate. In addition, the Law Library curates a display that celebrates the lives and accomplishments of the highlighted honorees.”

This year, the display honors:

  • a lawyer who helped found both the American Bar Association and the South Carolina Bar Association in the 19th century;
  • a lawyer with a pivotal role in the 20th-century civil rights movement, who later became South Carolina’s first African-American federal judge; and
  • the City of Columbia’s first woman municipal judge, who later served in both Afghanistan and Azerbaijan helping develop emerging legal systems.

To learn more about these honorees, watch for future blog posts, or simply visit the display in the Coleman Karesh Reading Room on the second floor of the Law Library.

“To live for a time close to great minds is the best kind of education.” John Buchan, Memory Hold-the-Door 35 (1940).






In Memoriam: Sarah Leverette

We are saddened that Sarah Leverette passed away on August 29, 2018. She was 99 years old.

Words cannot convey our deep respect for her many contributions to this law library, to the state of South Carolina, and to the legal profession.

We encourage anyone who does not know the story of Sarah Leverette’s life to learn more about her through a booklet by Becci Robbins and a StoryCorps interview with Lisa Wilcox.

The photos below depict the faculty of the University of South Carolina School of Law during a few of the years in which Sarah Leverette was the first and only woman faculty member. She was the law librarian and taught a course that was the precursor to today’s Legal Research, Analysis & Writing.

USC School of Law Faculty – 1960

USC School of Law Faculty – 1961

USC School of Law Faculty – 1963

Sarah was unstoppable. For all of her life, she was a champion of our better angels.  There will never be a world without Sarah.  She touched so many lives for so many years, and inspired so many.  For those whose lives she touched, the world is transformed in a way that can’t be reversed or destroyed.  Her kindness, her example, her influence, and the comfort of her memory are ours to keep in perpetuity. – Rebekah Maxwell


Women’s History Month: Harriet H. Keyserling

A new exhibit at South Carolina Political Collections highlights the work of Harriet Keyserling (1922-2010), whose papers are held at USC. To find the exhibit, enter Thomas Cooper Library and walk straight through to the attached Hollings Library.

Rep. Keyserling’s autobiography, Against the Tide: One Woman’s Political Struggle was published by USC Press and is available at Thomas Cooper Library.

Acts and Resolutions

Rep. Keyserling served in the South Carolina House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993. Among many other accomplishments, she was involved in successful efforts to:

House Journal

In 1979, Rep. Keyserling was named temporary chaplain of the House, the first Jewish person to serve as such.

from the S.C. House Journal set on the first floor of USC Law Library

In 1988, Rep. Keyserling went on record in the House Journal, along with all the other women serving at that time, seconding the nomination of Jean Toal as she became the first woman associate justice on the South Carolina Supreme Court.

excerpt from S.C. House Journal for Wednesday, January 27, 1988 on

For more information on Rep. Keyserling, check out the exhibit currently at South Carolina Political Collections.