Betty Layne DesPortes is a criminal defense attorney with the Richmond, Virginia law firm of Benjamin & DesPortes.

Betty Layne was named one of Virginia Lawyers Media’s “Influential Women of Virginia” for 2014

Betty Layne received her JD from the University of Virginia School of Law and her MS in forensic science from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Betty Layne is a Past President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and a Fellow of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers. She served as Chair of the Forensic Sciences Foundation, Inc. and on the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Biological Evidence as a representative of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She also served on the ABA Task Force on the Presentation of Forensic Science Evidence.

She has actively sought reform of Virginia’s indigent defense system and is committed to improving indigent defense forensic resources. In 1996, Betty Layne and her law partner, Steven D. Benjamin, obtained a landmark Virginia Supreme Court decision recognizing the constitutional right of an indigent criminal defendant to expert forensic assistance. Since 2005 she has assisted with speaker recruitment and planning of the Virginia Chief Justice’s Advanced Indigent Criminal Defense Training Seminar.

In 2001, Betty Layne and Steve obtained the exoneration and release of Jeffrey David Cox, a man who was serving a life sentence for a murder he did not commit.

Professional Details


Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia

Master of Science (Forensic Sciences): December 1993

University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, Virginia

Juris Doctor: May 1992

JOURNALS: Virginia Law Review, The Journal of Law and Politics

University of South Carolina Honors College, Columbia, South Carolina

Baccalaureus Artium et Scientiae (Honors Degree): May 1989


Supreme Court of the United States — Admitted 2006

Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals – Admitted 1994

United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia – Admitted 1994

United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia – Admitted 1994

South Carolina State Bar – Admitted 1993

Virginia State Bar – Admitted 1992


Virginia Chief Justice’s Indigent Defense Training Initiative:

Planning Committee: 2005-2019

Program Co-Chair: 2011-2012


Commission on Virginia Courts in the 21st Century: To Benefit All, To Exclude None, Task Force on the Structure of the Judicial System: 2005-2006


Adjunct Faculty – University of Richmond School of Law, (Scientific Evidence), Spring 1997-2002, 2004


American Academy of Forensic Sciences (Fellow)

Immediate Past President: 2018-2019

President: 2017-2018

President-Elect: 2016-2017

Treasurer: 2014-2016

Vice President: 2013-2014

Board of Directors: 2007-2019

Ad Hoc Committee on Amicus Briefs: 2007

Ad Hoc Committee on Publications (Chair): 2011-2013

Ad Hoc Committee on Term Limits: 2011-2012

Ad Hoc Committee on Ethics Response: 2011-2012

Continuing Education Committee: 1999-2006

Executive Committee: 2009-2010, 2012-2013, 2014-2015

Forensic Science Foundation:

Chair: 2013-2015

Research Committee: 2009-2013

Secretary: 2012-2013

Trustee: 2011-2018

Internal Audit Committee: 2000-2004

Jurisprudence Section: 1995-present

Chair: 2004-2006

Secretary: 2002-2003, 2003-2004

Program Chair: 1999-2000, 2001-2002

Membership Committee:

Chair: 2013-2014

Member: 2002-2006

Nominating Committee: 2004-2007

Program Committee:

Interdisciplinary Symposium Chair: 2009-2010

Local Arrangements Chair: 2012-2013

American Bar Association

Criminal Justice Standards Committee Task Force on Biological Evidence: 2003-2006

Criminal Justice Task Force on Presentation of Forensic Evidence and Jury Instructions: 2010-2012

American Board of Criminal Defense Lawyers (Fellow)

National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers



Awards & Recognition

Virginia Lawyers Media "Influential Women of Virginia" for 2014

Kenneth S. Field Award of Appreciation for Outstanding Service to the AAFS Staff, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 2014

Harold A. Feder Award, Jurisprudence Section, American Academy of Forensic Sciences, February 2014