Labrador dog named Lucy saves Oregon man from sex conviction
The discovery of a black Labrador named Lucy led to the unraveling of a criminal case Monday, against an Oregon man who had begun serving a 50-year prison sentence.
* A feel good story worth sharing, from earlier in the year.
By Colin B M Wood, Citizen’s Freedom Blog/United States Press Association/September, 2018
Joshua Horner, a plumber from the central Oregon town of Redmond, was convicted on April 12, 2017, of sexual abuse of a minor.
In the trial, the complainant testified Horner had threatened to shoot her animals if she went to the police about the alleged molestation, and said she saw him shoot her dog and kill it to make his point.
Six months after a jury convicted Horner in a verdict that was not unanimous, he asked the Oregon Innocence Project for help. The group took up his case.
When the group raised concerns in April about the case with Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel, he agreed to work with them.
Horner had insisted he never shot the dog. Finding the dog would show the complainant had lied under oath. But if it was alive, where was it?
An Oregon Innocence Project volunteer and an official from Hummel’s office searched for the animal. The black Lab had reportedly been given away. The investigators, were expediently on the trail, but they had trouble tracking down the purported dog’s owner.
“They made a couple trips around Deschutes County; he was not there,” said Steve Wax, legal director of the Oregon Innocence Project. “We heard he was in Seattle. Then we learned he had a new home on the Oregon Coast.”
It was there, in the town of Gearhart, northwest of Portland, that the pair finally found Lucy after her owners agreed to meet at a golf course.
“She was drinking a bowl of water and sitting in the shade underneath a porch. We played with her. Pet her. It was wonderful,” said Lisa Christon, the Oregon Innocence Project volunteer.
Lucy was identified by an undisputed chain of custody and her distinguishable looks.
“She’s a very distinctive-looking black Lab; not purebred. She’s got this adorable shaped head and really long ears,” Christon said.
That revealed evidence showed the complainant had not been honest when 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 Monday he’s not certain that Horner didn’t sexually abuse the complainant, but that he’s now not positive without a doubt, that he did. The Associated Press is not revealing her name, of course, because they typically do not identify alleged victims of sexual abuse.
Deschutes County Judge Michael Adler dismissed the case.
Horner, in a statement released by the Oregon Innocence Project, thanked the group, his family, friends and Hummel.
“Kelli and I are ready to pick up the pieces of our lives,” Horner said, standing with his supportive wife. The couple emerged from the courthouse Monday, holding hands and smiling.
Horner was released from a Pendleton prison on Aug. 3, after the Oregon Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, ordering a new trial. The appeals court wrote that the defense had not been allowed to present certain evidence that was unrelated to the dog.
Now, Horner no longer faces a second trial. He declined a request for an interview, saying he is not ready to speak with the media at the current time.
After Lucy was discovered, the young complainant failed to attend a meeting with her parents in August, to discuss her testimony, Hummel said. Last Wednesday, one of his investigators heard she lived in a home near Redmond. When he pulled into the driveway, she ran saw him and took off.
Horner had been indicted under a previous district attorney, but the trial and conviction came under Hummel’s leadership.
Hummel stated in an email, the issue of the dog being shot was raised for the first time during the trial, so there no investigation took place prior to trial, “and there was no credible reason to question the statement, after it was made.”
He said vindications of justice are a reminder that although the U.S. has “the best system of justice in the world is not perfect. Mistakes will be made and we should be judged by how we respond to them.”
Wax, who was Oregon’s former top federal public defender for 31 years before joining the Oregon Innocence Project, said the case is highly unusual.
“To be able to establish that a person should not have been convicted, you need something objective,” Wax said in a telephone interview. “In most child sex abuse cases, there is no evidence. Finding Lucy alive showed the complainant lied under oath in her testimony.”
It was the first victory for the Oregon Innocence Project, launched in 2014 to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and promote legal reforms.
Wax praised Hummel for his willingness to re-approach the case.
“Nationwide, what Mr. Hummel did was unusual,” Wax said. “It is to be commended. It should be the model.”
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* Colin is a former professional stage (Stage name: Colin Munro, former AEA member), television, film, commercial, modeling, soloist entertainer. He began avidly reading at the age of 5, and wrote his first fictional short-story at a very young age of 6. His mind couldn’t stop imagining stories. Colin experienced a writing hiatus from 1992 to 2015, when he returned with his first online article publication on his original blog Heart and Soul Commentary Since then, he has been published in 4 online magazines, writes for all the above news and blog sites, and published two short short-story books on Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook. For hobbies, he enjoys time with his youngest son, attends karaoke occasionally, might still catch a Yankees game on YES or at the stadium, slightly enjoys online Texas Hold '
Em still, watching movies on Netflix, and binging streaming tv on Hulu. You might even be able to see this introverted homebody at a restaurant with his boy, once in a while.