The discovery of a missing dog saved a man from a 50-year prison sentence.
A plumber from Redmond, Oregon is thanking his lucky stars an attorney taking up his plea decided to do the unorthodox and seek out a black Labrador that held the key in overturning his abuse of a minor case.
Joshua Horner was convicted in April 12, 2017 of sexual abuse of a minor, with the complainant testifying in court that Horner allegedly told her she would shoot her animals if she went to the police about the alleged molestation.
The complainant added she saw him shoot and kill her dog to prove his point.
Six months after his conviction, Horner then asked the Oregon Innocence Project for help, who then turned to Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel who agreed to take it up.
Horner insisted during the investigation that he had never shot at any animal, and Hummel decided that finding the dog would mean the complainant lied under oath while testifying. But where do they start looking?
Yahoo reported that volunteers from the Oregon Innocence Project and an official from Hummel’s office discovered the black Labrador had been given away.
“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 place on the Oregon Coast.”
It was there in an idyllic town in Portland that they finally found the dog in question.
“She was drinking a bowl of water and sitting in shade underneath a porch. We played with her. Petted her. It was wonderful,” said Lisa Christon, the Oregon Innocence Project volunteer who went with Hummel’s representative.
No one could dispute that it was indeed the dog the complainant said had gotten shot and killed.
“She’s a very distinctive-looking black Lab; not purebred. She’s got this adorable shaped head and really long ears,” Christon said.
The four-legged dark-furred key evidence proved the complainant had not been truthful when testifying.
“Lucy the dog was not shot. Lucy the dog is alive and well,” Hummel’s office said in a statement.
Last Monday, Hummel told the court at first he wasn’t entirely sure that Horner did not in fact sexually abuse the complainant, but with the dog resurfacing, he was now sure it didn’t happen.
Deschutes County Judge Michael Adler dismissed the case.
Horner, along with his wife Keli, walked out of the courthouse hand-in-hand and smiling and thanked the people who was able to turn the tide on his conviction.
After the dog named Lucy was found, the complainant failed to attend a meeting in August to discuss her testimony, according to the Yahoo report.
Hummel added that last week, one of his investigators heard she was at a home near Redmond, but ran away when she saw him pull up on the driveway.
It is also the first successful exoneration for the Oregon Innocence Project, which was launched in 2014 to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and promote legal reforms.
Wax, who served as Oregon’s former federal public defender for three decades, said the case was ‘highly unsual.’
“To be able to establish that a person should not have been convicted, you need something objective,” Wax said. “In most child sex abuse cases, there is no evidence. Finding Lucy alive showed the complainant lied under oath in her testimony,” he said, and praised Hummel’s thinking outside the box.
“Nationwide, what Mr. Hummel did was unusual,” Wax said. “It is to be commended. It should be the model.”