OSWEGO, NY ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Alan Jones was arraigned in Oswego County Court on Wednesday.
Jones, Erin MaxwellÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s step-brother, was charged with second-degree murder for allegedly causing the injuries that resulted in the death of the 11-year-old Palermo girl.
The childÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s father and step-mother, Lindsey and Lynn Maxwell, sat shackled in the jury box. They are charged with six counts of endangering the welfare of a child because of the conditions Erin lived in prior to her death.
The family’s attorney, Sal Lanza, sought to have the bail lowered for the Maxwells.
They haven’t been in trouble with the law previously, aren’t a flight risk and are having trouble making ends meet, Lanza said arguing they should be released on their own recognizance.
Judge Walter Hafner ordered the trio held in Oswego County Jail, and their bail was continued – $100,000 cash or $250,000 bond for Jones and $2,500 cash or $5,000 bond each for the Maxwells.
Citing what he calls an on-going feud between the judge and certain members of the District Attorney’s Office, Lanza sought to have the case moved to Onondaga County.
“This is ridiculous. My client is sitting in jail while you’re having a dispute,” Lanza said.
“I’m not having a dispute at all, Mr. Lanza,” Hafner said.
“This is not ridiculous,” added DA Donald Dodd.
“We need another judge and another district attorney on this. That is what we need,” Lanza continued.
His clients are indigent, Lanza said.
“When they come out, they will have nothing, nothing, not even the clothes on their back,” he said.
“There is an on-going dispute, grievances have been filed,” Lanza continued outside the courtroom. “I don’t see this when I travel to Cayuga County, Cortland County, Oneida County, Jefferson County and certainly in Onondaga County. I just don’t see it. But it happens here and it’s gotta stop.”
Throughout his time in court, Lanza also repeatedly made comments expressing his angry at not being notified that his clients were being arrested early Tuesday. He found out through a phone call from a friend.
“(Jones) cooperated with state troopers. He made what maybe two statements; he was with them for over 12 hours. I don’t know if he failed (a polygraph test). All I know is, from him telling me, is that he went through the polygraph test and then the state troopers took him outside and then brought him back into a room for further questioning,” the attorney said.
He thinks the DA has “very weak evidence.”
The family claims Erin’s death was accidental.
“The police dispute that,” Lanza said. “How are they going to prove this case? There is no video, no audio tape, there’s no eye witness and there is no confession. So what do they have? They have a dead body. They have a rope, a green colored rope, the medical examiner’s report.”
They threw the window frame out (that she allegedly was hanging from), Lanza added.
“So what is the evidence going to be here? The evidence is going to be if I put my client on the stand he is going to testify, ‘I am innocent. This is how I found her,'” he said.
The police will claim there are inconsistencies with Jones’ story, he continued.
The window frame, according to Lanza, is the key.
“When you look at the weight of the evidence in this case, it is weak; slim to none,” Lanza claimed. “It’s going to be he said, he said. The state police saying one thing and my experts, and this defendant if he takes the stand, saying another thing.”
Jones’ bail was set too high, Lanza asking the judge to release him on his own recognizance. “He’s not going anywhere, judge,” Lanza said.
“I’m a little surprised (the Maxwells’ bail wasn’t reduced),” Lanza said. “I knew that the bail for second-degree murder would probably stay as is, that is an A felony. But as for the misdemeanor charges of endangering, I thought that the judge would let both of the parents out so they could take care of their affairs at home, not lose everything. It is kind of high bail; it should have been maybe $500 cash/$1,000 bond.”
Both parents were arraigned Tuesday in Palermo Town Court.
Lanza said he didn’t like what the bail was; he thought the bail was too high, so he made an application for a review of bail by the higher court.
“This is going to be trial. An ordinary murder trial in Syracuse starts at about $25, 000 to $50,000. These people don’t have $100 to their name. She hasn’t been working because of what’s transpired,” Lanza said. “The judge has assigned me to this case, so I am going to be representing them.”
DA Dodd spoke briefly with the media after court.
“There are laws that dictate the manner in which cases are handled. This particular case, procedurally, will go in that particular direction. Issues arise at different times; it is not uncommon in any case for issues to arise. Attorneys are entitled to argue whatever particular point it is that they feel is appropriate,” Dodd explained.
“We don’t try cases in the press. It’s fair for you folks to ask. Whenever I or someone on behalf of our office appears in court on a matter, we are very careful in the language that we use,” the DA told reporters. “Ultimately, the jury decides this. It is not for me to put anything in the minds of prospective jurors. That is to ensure that fairness prevails for everyone.”
“Could I (talk more about the people’s evidence)? Absolutely. Am I going to ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ no.
The defendant has a series of rights; our office has and will continue to do everything that we can make sure the rights are available to him. Ultimately, juries decide this; not what I say, or what Mr. Lanza says.Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â If needs dictate, a jury will decide it,” Dodd said. “As to specific forms of evidence, it’s absolutely improper for me to comment on that. That’s unfair. If I say something to (the media) it’s out in the public domain. It may or may not be heard by a jury. That’s a procedure we will continue to follow.”