OSWEGO, NY Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Alan Jones’ conviction on second-degree murder by “depraved indifference” drew strong reactions this afternoon (Sept. 24).
Jones, 28, was found guilty of killing his 11-year-old stepsister Erin Maxwell last August.
It took the jury about 12 hours, over two days, to come to a unanimous verdict shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday.
“Nothing can bring Erin back. She suffered an awful fate. But this is a step in the direction of making him responsible for what he did to her,” Oswego County District Attorney Donald Dodd said outside the courtroom. “The jury spoke clearly, they spoke loudly; they said he did it, he’s guilty. And he was properly convicted.”
“There certainly was a lot of emotion, that’s for sure,” Dodd continued.
“I know I should be saying that we got justice for Erin,” said Colleen Scott of the Justice for Erin group. “But, I still feel that Erin will never have justice because Erin can never have her life back. She can never go back to being that 11-year-old girl.”
“I know you guys (media) probably all thought I’d be out here doing some kind of dance. But, it’s sad because one person is dead and another person’s going to spend the vast majority of their life in prison,” she continued.
“It’s difficult. I was a little bit surprised, but you know this is just a start of the appellate process,” said defense attorney Sal Lanza. “Remember all the cases the judge quoted Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ we’re talking about a depraved indifference case that was prosecuted as an intentional murder. Now, we’re going to see what the appellate division is going to do. We’re going to see what happens on appeal. But, was I surprised? Yeah, I’m a bit surprised.”
Lanza maintained that there was no DNA linking his client to the crime, “absolutely no evidence tying Alan to the crime; no confession, nothing.”
Jones was in shock when the verdict was read, his attorney said.
When the foreman of the 12-man jury announced the verdict, he looked directly at Jones, who sat down and covered his face with his hands.
“He is upset. He is in shock right now,” Lanza said of Jones.
Outside the courthouse, Jones’ mother, Lynn Maxwell, said her son was innocent and they’d continue to fight the charge Ã¢â‚¬â€œ even if it takes 100 years.
“There was a lot of emotion in the county about this case, a lot of emotion,” Lanza said. “I don’t know, I just don’t know what the jury talked about. But, they’ve rendered their verdict. Now, it’s time for the appeal process.”
It’s hard to be in a position like a juror, he pointed out.
“It’s very difficult for people under a stressful situation, when you have maybe eight people against you, to try to defend your position. People start dropping like flies,” Lanza said. “They want to get out. They can’t stand the pressure.”
Lanza said he was “pretty confident” that the case will be reversed by the appellate division, like the other cases the judge had mentioned.
Lynn Maxwell said she was “expecting it.”
“This has been a hot case ever since it first started. The New York State Police blew it up into a huge case within hours of the accident,” she said. “Alan is 100 percent innocent. We just go until we prove it.”
Jones claims Erin accidentally hanged herself. The jury, however, believed the DA’s claim that Jones strangled Erin.
His mother said she believes the jury tried to do the right thing, “but this is a very emotional case. When you’ve heard other things, you just can’t unhear something; once something is said, once something is read, seen, it’s there.”
Scott said she did want someone held responsible, but the trial’s outcome is bittersweet, she admits.
“I had the same reaction here that I did in Palermo,” she said. “It made me sad; it made me want to cry.”
Erin’s father and stepmother, Lindsey and Lynn, were convicted of multiple child endangerment charges in August following a trial in Palermo Town Court. They are to be sentenced next month.
Their convictions are under appeal.
“Like Mark Moody (the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the Maxwells) said, it is a bittersweet victory. For the main reason that a child has been killed,” Scott said.
The group will continue, she added.
“We’ve made a lot of good friendships. And, it’s made us a lot more aware, too. More aware of how evil the world can be,” added Allison Ryder, another member of the group. “We all know, still, that Social Services need to be held accountable.
The county DSS has been under heavy fire since the death of the 11-year-old. The department’s handling of the case has been strenuously criticized, and many have sought to have the DSS commissioner removed.
“We all know what to do now, and I don’t care if you put this in the paper. We will never call DSS,” Ryder vowed. “We’ll call code enforcement and animal control. We have no faith in DSS.”
According to the police, the Maxwells’ lived in “deplorable” conditions with more than 100 cats living inside the home along with chickens and other barnyard animals.
The home was beset with piles of garbage and feces everywhere, authorities said.
The animal people would have taken the animals away Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and in the process would have taken Erin away as well, Ryder noted.
“It’s sad that under our laws, something can be done quicker to help an animal than it can for a child,” she said. “That’s terrible.”
Jones is scheduled to be sentenced Nov. 6.
He faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison.