An Oregon man sentenced to 50 years in prison for sexually abusing his daughter has had his conviction overturned and received an apology from the state, after a dog he allegedly shot was found alive and well.
Deschutes County district attorney John Hummel apologized on behalf of the state for prosecuting Josh Horner from Redmond, Oregon.
The 42-year-old plumber was convicted in March 2017 and sentenced to 50 years in prison, despite the jury not coming to a consensus that he was guilty. Oregon is one of the two US states where jurors don’t need to be unanimous to convict, with the exception of murder cases.
After spending 18 months in prison, Horner was exonerated on Monday, after an investigation by the Oregon Innocence Project found the prosecution relied on false testimony by the alleged victim and had no physical evidence.
During the trial, the complaining witness testified that Horner threatened to shoot her pet animals if she went to the police about the alleged molestation. He supposedly demonstrated this by shooting a black Labrador named Lucy in front of her.
Horner insisted the dog was alive. The Innocence Project was able to locate Lucy with another owner, alive and unharmed.
On the steps of the same courthouse where he was convicted, Horner thanked the Oregon Innocence Project for spending nine months investigating his case and persuading the DA to reexamine the evidence. It was the group’s first exoneration.
The Oregon legal system has a particular blind spot when it comes to sex abuse cases, said the group’s legal director Steve Wax. State guidelines for investigating child sex abuse allegations need to be amended and the process of eyewitness identification, interrogation and discovery should be reformed in order to ”protect the innocent [and] punish the guilty,” he said.
Wax also called for increased funding of both investigation and defense “so that we’re not in this situation in the future,” adding that the toll this conviction has taken on Horner is “immeasurable.”
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