By: Jesse Ochoa, Comments Editor, J.D. Candidate, May 2019, St. Thomas University School of Law.

Usually, it is Timmy who pleads to his companion, Lassie, to find help when he is in a sticky predicament; this time, it was Joshua Horner, a man in Oregon who needed to find Lucy, a black Labrador, that could reverse his fifty-year prison sentence. Horner was accused and later convicted in 2017, of sexually molesting a minor. During the trial, the complainant testified that Horner threatened to kill her animals if she went to the police and that she saw him shoot and kill her dog, Lucy. Horner sought help from the Oregon Innocence Project insisting that he neither shot nor killed any dog of hers. The Oregon Innocence project found many red flags in Horner’s case, but the flag that stood out the most was the alleged killing of Lucy. The issue of whether Lucy was shot and killed was only brought up during the trial and no investigation was ever conducted prior to. However, Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel agreed to work with the Oregon Innocence Project.

Cue Lucy. Lucy was found alive and well with her new owners in Gearhart, Oregon, a town northwest of Portland. It turns out that Lucy was just given away. Instead of buried, Lucy, distinctly identified by the shape of her head and long ears, was found drinking water under a porch, unharmed in any way. Finding Lucy was the key evidence, which is rare in child sex abuse cases, that the complainant was not being truthful about her allegations and that she lied under oath. As a result of the successful investigation, Horner no longer faces a second trial and the Oregon Innocence Project won its first exoneration. Steve Wax, a former Oregon public defender for thirty-one years prior to joining the Oregon Innocence Project, commended Hummel’s “unusual” cooperation and stated that “it should be the model.” Following his release, Horner plans to “pick up the pieces of [his] life” with his wife.