by Carol Thompson
The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, released its decision in the case of People v. Alan Jones today.
The court reversed Jones’s conviction for the crime of murder in the second degree (depraved indifference murder) for causing the death of his 11-year old stepsister, Erin Maxwell, while in their Town of Palermo home in 2008.
The appellate court held that, as a matter of law, the evidence before the jury was legally insufficient to establish that Jones acted with the mental state of depraved indifference at the time he caused Erin’s death.
In a press release issued by Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes, it is stated that the appellate court found that the evidence before the jury sufficiently established the lesser-included offense of second-degree manslaughter, meaning that Jones recklessly caused her death.
The court therefore reduced the conviction to second-degree manslaughter and transferred the case back to the Oswego County Court for sentencing on the reduced charge, which carries a maximum of sentence of 5 to 15 years in state prison.
The case was originally prosecuted by then-Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd, who indicted and tried the case under the theory of depraved indifference murder. Dodd retired at the end of 2011.
Current Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes, who took office Jan. 1, argued the appeal on behalf of his office.
Oakes indicated that he is saddened by the appellate court’s decision to reduce the conviction, stating that he believes Jones deserves the 25 years to life sentence originally imposed by Judge Hafner.
Oakes stated, “The court’s decision affirms the jury’s finding that Jones caused Erin’s death. He committed a wicked and horrendous act against an innocent child, and he deserves to spend the rest of his life in a cell.”
Oakes stated that he will try to appeal the case to the Court of Appeals and seek to have the murder conviction reinstated.
Oakes added, “While no conviction can undo this tragedy, as a matter of justice, I will do everything in my power to make sure that Jones is held fully accountable for Erin’s death. Erin deserves nothing less.”