BEND, OR -- A Redmond man was exonerated Monday when all charges against him in a child sex abuse case were dismissed. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel says he won the case against Joshua Horner in March of 2017, but was approached a year later by Steve Wax of the Oregon Innocence Project (OIP) with what he called 'valid concerns.'
Hummel tells KBND News, "I took seriously the arguments made by Steve and the Oregon Innocence Project. We undertook an extensive investigation into the factual and legal concerns they raised." In the course of their joint investigation, a significant claim made by the alleged victim was proven untrue. She had testified Horner told her he'd kill her pets if she disclosed his abuse. "And, she said, that to prove his point, 'he shot my dog, Lucy, right in front of me.' However, Lucy the Dog was not shot," says Hummel, "Lucy the Dog is alive and well."
OIP's Steve Wax says Horner was convicted by a non-unanimous jury based on that last minute, untrue testimony, "I'm confident that if Mr. Hummel and his assistant who tried the case had known of this allegation, and been able to investigate it beforehand, the case would not have been prosecuted. But, they didn't know." He says if Horner's conviction had been allowed to stand, it would've been a serious miscarriage of justice, "And the likelihood is, he would've died in prison. A fifty-year sentence - the man is 42-years-old today, he would've died in prison."
Horner's conviction was overturned in July by the Oregon Court of Appeals. But, he would've been subject to a new trial, had the Deschutes County judge not dropped all charges, Monday. D.A. Hummel says, "Mr. Horner was convicted in Open Court, standing in the Courtroom for the public to see. When I made this decision to dismiss the case, the public deserved to hear that, in open, in front of the courthouse. You cannot convict somebody in the light of day and exonerated them in darkness." Horner walked out of court a free man, Monday morning, and greeted well-wishers, "This is a day I wasn't sure I'd see. But today, I walk out of here a free man, and I'd like to thank the Good Lord for that, number one, and my friends and family who are all here to support me today."
The Oregon Innocence Project was founded in 2014; this is their first exoneration.