The discovery of a black lab named Lucy led on Monday to unravel a criminal case against an Oregon man who had begun serving a 50-year prison sentence.
Joshua Horner, a plumber from the city of Redmond, in central Oregon, was convicted on April 12, 2017 of sexual abuse of a minor.
At the trial, the author testified that Horner had threatened to shoot his animals if he went to the police for the alleged abuse and said that he saw him shoot his dog, kill him, to clarify his point.
Six months after a jury convicted Horner in a verdict that was not unanimous, he sought help from the Oregon Innocence Project. The group took your case.
When the group expressed concern in April about the case with the Deschutes County District Attorney, John Hummel, he agreed to work with them.
Joshua Horner (seen on the right with his wife, Kelli Horner), a plumber from the city of Redmond, in central Oregon, was convicted on April 12, 2017 of sexual abuse of a minor. He is seen upstairs after his release in Bend, Oregon on Monday
Horner had insisted that he never shot the dog.
Finding the dog would show that the plaintiff lied under oath. But if he was alive, where was he?
A volunteer from the Oregon Innocence Project and an officer from Hummel's office looked for him. According to reports, the black lab had been given away.
Investigators were snooping on the road, but they had trouble locating the alleged owner of the dog.
"They made a couple of trips around Deschutes County, he was not there," said Steve Wax, legal director of the Oregon Innocence Project.
"We heard he was in Seattle, and then we knew he had a place on the Oregon coast.
It was there, in the city of Gearhart, northwest of Portland, where the couple finally found Lucy after their owners agreed to meet at a golf course.
He was drinking a bowl of water and was in the shade under a porch. We play with it. I caressed her. It was wonderful, "said Lisa Christon, volunteer with the Oregon Innocence Project.
Lucy was identified by an indisputable chain of custody and her appearance.
At the trial, the author testified that Horner had threatened to shoot his animals if he went to the police for the alleged abuse and said that he saw him shoot his dog, kill him, to clarify his point. But the dog in question was found alive. The dog, Lucy, looks up
"She's a very distinctive black lab, not purebred, she has this adorable head and really long ears," Christon said.
That key evidence showed that the plaintiff had not been sincere in testifying, the district attorney said.
Lucy, the dog was not shot. Lucy, the dog, is alive and well, "Hummel's office said in a statement.
Hummel told the court on Monday that he is not sure that Horner has not sexually abused the plaintiff, but is now not convinced he did.
The Associated Press does not name it because it does not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse.
The Deschutes County judge, Michael Adler, dismissed the case.
Horner, in a statement released by the Oregon Innocence Project, thanked the group, their family, their friends and Hummel.
"Kelli and I are ready to pick up the pieces of our lives," Horner said, referring to his wife. The couple left the courtroom Monday holding hands and smiling.
Horner had left a state prison in Pendleton on August 3 after the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned his conviction and ordered a new trial.
The appeals court said that the defense had not been allowed to present certain evidence that was not related to the dog.
Now, Horner no longer faces that second test. He refused an interview request and said he was not ready to talk to the press yet.
After Lucy was found, the plaintiff did not attend a meeting in August to discuss her testimony, Hummel said.
Horner had insisted that he never shot the dog. Finding the dog would show that the plaintiff lied under oath
Last Wednesday, one of his investigators heard that he was in a home near Redmond.
When he stopped in the driveway, she ran away.
Horner had been accused by a former district attorney, but the trial and the sentence were under the supervision of Hummel.
Hummel said in an email that the question of the dog that was shot was first raised during the trial, so no investigation was conducted before the trial, and we had no credible reason to question the statement after the trial. the proof. done. & # 39;
He said the exonerations are a reminder that while the United States has "the best justice system in the world," it is not perfect. We will make mistakes and we will be judged by the way we respond to them. "
Wax, who was Oregon's top federal public defender for 31 years before joining the Oregon Innocence Project, said this case is very unusual.
"In order to establish that a person should not have been convicted, something objective is needed," Wax said in a telephone interview.
& # 39; In most cases of child sexual abuse, there is no evidence. Upon finding Lucy alive, the accuser lied under oath in her testimony.
It was the first exemption from the Oregon Innocence Project, launched in 2014 to exonerate unjustly convicted persons and promote legal reforms.
Wax praised Hummel for his willingness to re-examine the case.
"Nationwide, what Mr. Hummel did was unusual," Wax said. & # 39; It is worthy of praise. It should be the model. "