The 2008 killing of 11-year-old Erin Maxwell shocked Oswego County. One year later, her 27-year-old stepbrother was convicted of her murder. Alan Jones was sent away to prison for 25 years to life. But now an appeal has reduced both his conviction, and his sentence. Our Candace Hopkins explores the legal issues in play in the Jones case.
OSWEGO COUNTY, N.Y. -- The state appellate division ruled Jones should not have been convicted of so-called murder with depraved indifference. That means he now faces only five to 15 years in prison. Why that happened has to do with what's considered "depraved indifference."
"Courts have been struggling to define this, and have decided that generally a one-on-one attack isn't depraved murder, unless the victim is particularly vulnerable and the defendant doesn't get attention and help for that person," said Paul DerOhannesian, Legal Eagle.
District Attorney Greg Oakes was not in office during Jones' trial but argued against the appeal. He says Erin's age and size made the crime fit that definition of murder.
"As I argued to the court, the appellate division, when you have an 11-year-old girl who's facing a full grown man, who outweighs her five times her weight, and has a foot on her height, and she's locked in a room like an animal, behind a locked screen, certainly I think any reasonable person would view her as a vulnerable victim," said Greg Oakes, Oswego County District Attorney.
The appellate division disagreed, because of what Jones did after the attack.
"What the court is saying, when this defendant did call 911, did administer CPR, that's not the type of conduct that is depraved indifference to human life, particularly when there wasn't proof that his conscious aim or objective was to kill this person," said DerOhannesian.
Jones was resentenced Wednesday for manslaughter. He got the maximum, but with the time he's already served, he'll be eligible for parole in less than a year.
In the meantime, we haven't heard the last of this case. Both sides are petitioning the state's highest court to take it on. The District Attorney wants the murder charge reinstated. The defense wants everything thrown out. It's unclear how long it will be before this is all settled for good.