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Posted on: October 31, 2019

Jackson County Prosecutor's statement regarding murder case dismissal in Independence

For Immediate Release

Oct. 31, 2019

The Jackson County Prosecutor's Office released the following statement today:

In mid-December 2018, a Jackson County jury seated in Division 16 in Independence, Missouri heard all of the evidence and argument in the case State v. Hackney. Defendant Hackney was charged with the murder of a woman, Holly Barnett, with whom she lived for several weeks before Barnett’s murder. At the conclusion of the trial, in deliberations, the jury could not reach a unanimous verdict, and the Court declared a mistrial. Following the declaration of mistrial, the Prosecutor’s office moved to reset the case for a second trial, and trial was reset for February 25, 2019. The defense attorney had a conflict, so the case was reset for a pretrial conference on March 8. On March 8, the Court set the trial for March 25.  Prosecutors moved the Court for a continuance because the family could not be present on March 25. In addition to wanting to allow the family to attend the trial, a family member was also a witness for the State.

A hearing on the State’s continuance motion was held on March 15, 2019.  The Court granted the State’s continuance request off of the March 25 setting and moved the trial to April 1, 2019. The State asked for a setting farther out because it had not verified that its witnesses would be available on April 1.  But the Court indicated at that time that it would not be willing to grant any further State continuance to move the setting past April 1. Unfortunately, the State subsequently confirmed that another State witness, the state crime analyst, was on medical leave and was unavailable for an April 1 trial.

It is the State’s understanding that at that time, both parties and the Court believed the State would be able to voluntarily dismiss the case and refile it without prejudice, a practice that is commonly called “dismiss and refile.” The State proceeded to dismiss the case and refile it to move the setting out past April 1 so that the State’s necessary witnesses could all be present. The defense did not object or file a motion to dismiss, but the defendant did not affirmatively consent. The Court set a new trial date of September 3, 2019.

Shortly before the September 3 trial setting, the prosecutor determined that the medical examiner was unavailable for that trial setting. He had recently separated from the office of the Jackson County Medical Examiner and moved out of state, and was unable to travel to Missouri for that trial setting. Defense counsel and the Court were notified that the State intended to move to dismiss and refile again. Again, the defense did not object, but the defendant did not affirmatively consent. It is the State’s understanding that both parties and the Court again believed the dismissal would be without prejudice, allowing the State to refile and retry the case.

Subsequently, the State conducted a deeper review of the case’s procedural posture and whether or not jeopardy had attached. Double jeopardy is the legal doctrine that a person cannot twice be subjected to trial. In Missouri, double jeopardy is laid out in MO Rev. Stat. § 56.087, and it is further interpreted through the case law. See State v. Storer, 324 S.W.3d 765 (Mo. Ct. App. 2010); State v. Moad, 398 S.W.3d 904 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013). The defendant had previously been subjected to trial, and the Court did not move the setting through the granting of a continuance. Because the State dismissed the case and refiled it, instead of the Court granting a continuance, and because the defendant did not affirmatively consent to the State’s refiling of the case, the State concluded that legally, jeopardy had attached, and double jeopardy barred retrial. As officers of the Court, and in the broader interests of justice, the State informed the parties and the Court of the situation and the applicable case law, and the case was dismissed. Due to double jeopardy attaching, unfortunately, the case cannot be refiled.

This is a legally complex and very difficult resolution to a criminal case. It is far from satisfying when a procedural rule prevents a family from obtaining a final jury verdict. But this office’s conclusion is that double jeopardy prevents the case from being retried. The office has great sympathy for the victim’s family and have been in communication with them throughout this process. Our sympathy goes out to them.

For more information, contact:

Michael Mansur

Director of Communication

Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office

Jean Peters Baker, Prosecutor

Work   : (816) 881-3812

Mobile: (816) 674-3954

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