Just this week, a mother who had been convicted of murdering her five-year-old son in 1991 saw her conviction overruled by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Michelle Lodzinski was charged with her son’s murder after being depicted as a mother who wanted to be rid of her son because he was “a burden” to her, according to the prosecution.
Since 1991, she had been considered a prime suspect but had maintained her innocence with no physical evidence tying her to the murder. She was formally charged in 2014 after individuals confirmed evidence linking her to the disappearance.
On May 25, 1991, Lodzinski had purportedly taken her son Timothy to a local carnival while living in New Jersey. She claimed that he went missing as she had turned her back to purchase a drink.
Volunteers combed the area looking for the child to no avail. During the police investigation, Lodzinski changed her story twice and no one could confirm seeing Timothy at the carnival, raising the investigator’s suspicions.
11 months later, his remains were found near a place Lodzinski worked. Near the remains was a blue blanket which later proved to be a critical piece of evidence.
Time passed, and the case grew cold. Lodzinski later moved to Florida and had two other children. In 2014, a break came in the case after several witnesses linked her to the blanket, and she was arrested and charged with murder. Despite pleading not guilty, the jury convicted her after only 4 hours of deliberation and she was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Appealing the Decision
In an appeal in 2019, the court upheld her conviction and later, the New Jersey Supreme Court upheld the appeals court’s in a three to three split decision, despite those dissenting claiming there was no cause of death – the body had decomposed badly before it was found – a lack of forensic evidence tying Lodzinski to the blanket and a lack of evidence indicating she had caused her son’s death.
But after recognizing a procedural error, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case this month, with Appellate Judge Jose Fuentes serving as the tiebreaker. He sided with Lodzinski, and the conviction was overturned in an extremely unusual move.
Lodzinski can no longer be tried for this case due to her Fifth Amendment rights against double jeopardy.
What is Double Jeopardy?
The concept of double jeopardy is historically one of the oldest, dating back to 355 B.C. Athens, with the Romans further codifying it. The American colonies adopted it into the Fifth Amendment, with modifications to focus on its legal conciseness.
In the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, the double jeopardy clause prohibits an individual from being prosecuted more than once for the same crime, reading, “No person shall…be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb….“
The concept of double jeopardy applies to any crime, regardless of its severity. Even if new evidence is found, there can still be no prosecution for the same crime. Prosecutors get one chance to build and try a case. In Michelle Lodzinski’s case, this is critical to her. Unfortunately, others feel that the ruling was a grave injustice.
Diligence Pays Off
In the murder case of Michelle Lodzinski, her attorney’s hard work and diligence paid off. Whenever you have been accused or arrested for a crime in New York City, the quality of your legal defense is critical to ensure your best possible outcome.
Call Bukh Law Firm at (800) 601-0207 or (212) 729-1632 in NYC or contact us online to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.