Judge Questions ‘Depraved Indifference’ Indictment

OSWEGO, NY – Steven Bourgeois returned to the witness stand today (Sept. 15)  in the Alan Jones murder trial.

However, as the state police senior investigator was about to testify to what Jones told him and how he reacted when the investigator informed him Erin Maxwell had died, defense attorney Sal Lanza objected.

The answer would have contained information about Jones’ religious belief, Lanza said. His client’s religious beliefs cannot be used against him, Lanza said.

District Attorney Donald Dodd intends to prove that Jones caused Erin’s death by strangling her and that she didn’t die due to an accidental hanging.

Jones was indicted on second degree murder, citing depraved indifference.

With the jury still out of the courtroom, Dodd questioned Bourgeois.

When the investigator told Jones Erin was dead, “he looked down and he looked back up. He didn’t respond,” the witness testified.”

When he asked Jones why he didn’t respond, the investigator said Jones replied, “People die … It’s no big deal. Everyone dies.”

“(Jones, a Pagan) said he did not view death the way Christians do,” the investigator added.

Lanza confirmed that his client views death differently than most people.

“There is something on the other side. You go somewhere, somewhere good. That’s his belief,” Lanza told the court regarding his client’s view of death.

Dodd contends Jones’ behavior proves his “depraved indifference” toward life.

When Jones was told in the early morning hours of Aug. 30, 2008, that Erin had died, (Jones) saw it as no big deal, the prosecutor said.

According to the indictment, Jones showed “depraved indifference” in causing Erin’s death.

Jones’ statements to Bourgeois, not long after Erin’s incident, shows depraved indifference, according to Dodd.

“(The jury) has to pass on his state of mind. How can (Jones’ statement) not be relevant?” the DA asked Oswego County Court Judge Walter Hafner.

There’s a difference between depraved indifference and intentional, the judge noted.

If Jones admitted to intentionally causing Erin’s death, the jury would have to find him not guilty because he isn’t charged with that, the judge postulated.

Hafner is basing his opinion on a ruling by the Court of Appeals, which states specific criteria by which a defendant can be found guilty of “depraved indifference murder.”

Turning to his client, Lanza said, “I could put you on the stand right now, and if you admit to intentionally killing Erin, the jury must come back with a verdict of not guilty. Do you understand what I’m saying? I did it intentionally, I was upset.”

The judge reminded the defense attorney about the possible perjury situation.

His client wasn’t going to do it, Lanza said, adding it would be a lie and Jones wasn’t going to lie.

“We’re going to fight this all the way,” Lanza said.

“You have no concept; you have some kind of mental block between depraved indifference and intentional murder. It’s clear to this court,” Hafner chastised Dodd.

It’s intentional murder if it’s one-on-one no matter if the weapon is a gun, a rope, a knife or flip-flops, Hafner noted.

“I’m not going to tell you how to prosecute your case,” the judge added.

Lanza’s objection was sustained and the jury returned to the courtroom after about an hour delay.

“So much for getting an early start,” Hafner said.

Bourgeois testified about how Jones was interviewed several times on Aug. 29, 30 and Sept. 11 of last year.

It was because some of his statements to police were “suspicious,” he said.

Lanza describe the multiple interviews as a police technique where investigators try to confuse suspects into saying what they want them to.

Bourgeois said he found it suspicious that Jones said he heard Erin in the kitchen call to him from her bedroom asking for her supper but didn’t hear anything when she was likely “thrashing around, fighting for her life.”

Lanza asked why his client had been interrogated over and over.

“It wasn’t an interrogation,” Bourgeois replied. “It was the start of the investigation into the death of a young girl. We wanted to get the facts straight as best we could. It was the beginning of the investigation.”

“It was the beginning of hell for my client! He’s been in that jail for a year,” Lanza said.

Testimony will continue Wednesday in Oswego County Court.