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Citing perjury and misconduct, Idaho Supremes toss out murder conviction

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The Judicial Update

May 31, 2011

BOISE, Idaho: On May 27, in a unanimous 32-page ruling written by Warren E. Jones, the five justices of the Idaho Supreme Court overturned the second-degree murder conviction of Jonathan Ellington.[1]

In their decision, the justices alluded to prosecutorial misconduct and to the likelihood that an officer of the Idaho State Police had committed perjury during the original 2006 trial.[2]

The May 27 ruling from the state's highest court overturned a decision of John P. Luster of the Idaho First Judicial District, and ordered that Ellington be given a new trial.[3]

In addition to concluding that the Kootenai County prosecutor Art Verharen engaged in misconduct during the trial, Justice Jones wrote that with respect to the testimony offered at the 2006 trial by Cpl. Fred Rice, an Idaho State Police officer, "It is impossible to believe there was any truth to the testimony of Cpl. Rice. It is abhorrent to this court, as it would be to any other court, that a man can be sentenced to twenty-five years for second-degree murder based primarily on the false testimony of a trooper of this state...It simply cannot be said that it was not probable that this new evidence that showed Cpl. Rice testified falsely, and likely intentionally, in the Ellington trial would have affected the jury’s determination of reasonable doubt, because it went straight to the heart of the defense’s main theory of the case."[1]

Rice has served with the Idaho State Police since 1983.

The prosecutorial misconduct issue revolved around what the justices said was the prosecution’s "repeatedly reiterating the image of Mr. Ellington ‘running over’ Mr. Larsen’s ‘wife’ was wholly unnecessary. We are also troubled that the prosecutor seems to have completely ignored the court’s admonition to 'move on,' by immediately asking another inflammatory question. The court should not have to lecture the prosecutor in front of the jury in order to get its point across that the current line of questioning is inappropriate."[1]

See also