The comments came pouring in on CNYcentral.com and our CNYcentral Facebook page. People were outraged over the possibility that convicted killer Alan Jones could be out of prison just five years after killing his 11 year old step sister Erin Maxwell. An Oswego County judge resentenced Jones today to five to fifteen on a manslaughter conviction. That was a big change from the 25 years Jones first received on a murder conviction after his trial.
It is difficult for the community to understand how this penalty could be reduced so drastically in the case of a little girl treated so poorly in life and then strangled to death. In the 2009 trial the prosecution decided to pursue a second degree murder charge based on a theory of depraved indifference to human life. The jury bought the argument despite the trial judge alerting the prosecution that the argument might not hold up on appeal.
The trial judge was right. Appeal specialist attorney John Cirando took the case to the Appellate Division in Rochester. The higher court sided with his argument that Jones did not act with depraved indifference. He would have had to have left Maxwell to die after strangling her instead of calling for help. Here's how the court described it: "That crime 'is best understood as an utter disregard for the value of human life-a willingness to act not because one intends harm, but because one simply doesn't care whether grievous harm results or not.'
The Appellate Division made an unusual decision in reducing the conviction from murder to manslaughter after extracting the notion of reckless from the depraved indifference murder conviction.
Cirando plans to appeal this ruling to the State Court of Appeals. He wants the whole conviction tossed out. The community that is upset about the resentencing of Jones should prepare itself. It is possible that his conviction could be set aside at some point. While it may be legally correct such a ruling would strike those who have grieved the death of Erin Maxwell with even greater force.
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