Case Studies: Criminal Defense
A Mother Saved from Life without Parole
Jenny Lynn Hughes did not murder her son Johnny. Trace Investigations believed her story that a stranger broke into her house about 3:00 a.m. one September morning over five years before we met her. Her first conviction had been overturned on a technicality and now the Innocence Project had come to Jenny’s defense and asked Trace Investigations to join their team. Jenny had heard noises in her son’s room that night and rushed in to find Johnny in a pool of blood by his bed. Jenny ran into the front yard screaming and yelling for help.
The police ignored Jenny’s plea to look for the killer and she was arrested for her son’s murder, even though there was no physical evidence to connect her to his death. She and her son were close, and, even though Jenny was in the middle of a divorce with Johnny’s dad, child custody arrangements were progressing smoothly. But she was an outsider, not from this small community where Johnny’s dad and his family were well known and influential. Jenny’s attorneys were able to get the second trial moved to a new venue. Our investigation found two credible witnesses who had frightening encounters with a stranger in the area around the time of Johnny’s murder. Another witness identified the stranger, who we believed had killed young Johnny in a drug and alcohol induced rage, because Jenny had snubbed him at a mini-mart in her neighborhood that afternoon.
The alternate theory of the crime was presented to the new jury by Jenny’s expert counsel, and, with the courageous testimony of two witnesses shepherded to trial by Trace Investigations and Jenny’s credible and heart-breaking testimony in her own defense, reasonable doubt had been established and they found her not guilty.
Result: The tragedy of a young boy’s death was not compounded by the false imprisonment of his mother for the crime. A viable suspect was identified. Trace Investigations was honored to be a part of the Innocence Project’s successful defense of Jenny Lynn Hughes.
An Accusation of Molestation Proven False
Bobby Stevens should have known better. He had a habit of supplying beer and cigarettes to teenagers in his neighborhood. But Bobby was a likeable fellow and enjoyed their company. The neighborhood was a rundown rural area, where many of the parents worked two jobs and came home late, leaving their latchkey teenagers to fend for themselves. Bobby was on disability leave one summer and was spending more time than usual with a handful of kids out of school and jobless. One evening he made the mistake of letting a teenage girl sleep over on his couch after a night of partying in his front yard with other kids. Let’s call her Abby. Abby told Bobby that both of her parents were working nights and she didn’t want to go back to an empty house, especially since she had drunk too much.
When Bobby got up the next morning, Abby was gone. He left to run errands and when he got home a sheriff’s deputy was waiting for him. Bobby was arrested for sexual molestation. Abby’s mother had been upset with her for staying out all night. In response to her mother’s anger, Abby said that Bobby got her drunk and molested her during the night. Her mother called the police.
Bobby’s defense attorney phoned Trace Investigations. He needed several teenagers interviewed, including Abby’s ex-boyfriend. He also believed Abby had made false allegations before. After several weeks of tracking peripatetic teenagers and dealing with overbearing parents, we got the information our client was asking for. Abby had indeed made false accusations previously in warding off her mother’s anger, and she had a history of lying about her use of alcohol and drugs. With Abby’s credibility destroyed, the prosecutor dropped charges against Bobby, who still should have known better.
Result: A defense attorney’s case was won and a falsely accused man was freed. Trace Investigations was honored with a “shout out” from our client on the state’s defender network for our work on this case.
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All names have been changed for privacy concerns.