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(Video Credit: CBS New York)
Michelle Lodzinski, who was convicted in 2016 for the death of her 5-year-old son Timothy Wiltsey in 1991, walked out of prison on Tuesday night a free woman just hours after the New Jersey Supreme Court stunningly vacated her conviction.
“Oh my god!” Lodzinski, 54, exclaimed while sobbing Tuesday morning after her attorney, Gerald Krovatin, called her with the news, according to NJ.com. Her attorney picked her up from the prison after her discharge.
She had been in prison since January of 2017 after being sentenced to 30-years with no possibility of parole. Before that, she had been in custody since her arrest in 2014 awaiting trial.
The court ruled on Tuesday in the notorious cold case that prosecutors had failed to produce sufficient evidence that she had intentionally caused the death of her son, according to the Associated Press. She was subsequently released following seven years of incarceration in one form or another.
(Video Credit: NJ.com)
The ruling means that Lodzinski cannot be tried again due to “double jeopardy,” Krovatin announced.
She is planning on returning to Florida as soon as she can. That is where she was residing when she was arrested, NJ.com reported. She has two other sons who were born after Timothy was allegedly murdered.
The ruling to overturn Lodzinski’s conviction follows an appeal in May where the court deadlocked 3-3, upholding her conviction.
In October, the court justices surprisingly agreed to reconsider her case. They claimed the court made a procedural error in its prior ruling. This time, the decision was 4-3 in favor of overturning her conviction after the court agreed to allow appellate Judge Jose L. Fuentes to serve as the tie-breaking vote, according to the AP.
“After reviewing the entirety of the evidence and after giving the state the benefit of all its favorable testimony and all the favorable inferences drawn from that testimony, no reasonable jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Lodzinski purposefully or knowingly caused Timothy’s death,” stated Justice Barry Albin in the majority opinion.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled 4-3 to vacate Michelle Lodzinski's 2016 conviction for killing her 5-year-old son Timothy in 1991, writing in their opinion that "no rational jury … could conclude that Lodzinski purposely or knowingly caused Timothy’s death."
— Shlomo Schorr (@OneJerseySchorr) December 28, 2021
He went on to say, “Even if the evidence suggested that Timothy did not die by accident, no testimony or evidence was offered to distinguish whether Timothy died by the negligent, reckless, or purposeful or knowing acts of a person, even if that person were Lodzinski.”
The three dissenting justices strongly disagreed with the ruling, writing: “In our view, today’s decision undermines the core principle of appellate deference to a jury verdict in a criminal trial and undermines the jury’s role at the heart of our criminal justice system. We consider the defendant’s acquittal to be unwarranted and unjust.”
The justices called the decision a “disservice to our jury system and a grave injustice to the victim, five-year-old Timothy Wiltsey.”
Lodzinski’s younger brother, Michael, slammed the decision.
“We all know the jury got it right,” he declared in a statement. “What happened today was just a result of some legal maneuvers and employment of a rarely used rule to ensure a certain outcome, it is by no means a declaration of her innocence. Justice Albin says in the opinion that the jury can conclude ‘…that she had some involvement in his disappearance, death, and burial.’ But not Timmy’s murder, give me a break. Justice Albin and his group believe they have righted some great wrong today but all they did was rob justice from a little boy, shame on them.”
Lodzinski’s son went missing in 1991 at a carnival when she was living in New Jersey as a single mother. She had claimed he was kidnapped. The boy’s body was found a year later in a marshy area near where Lodzinski worked.
Authorities asserted that she gave conflicting accounts about what happened to her son. During that time period, she moved to Florida. Then Timothy’s former babysitters came forward and told authorities that a blanket that was found with the boy’s body had belonged to his mother.
During the ensuing trial, Lodzinski’s attorneys argued that there was insufficient forensic evidence that linked her to the blanket while claiming that there was not enough evidence showing that the mother intentionally caused her son’s death. No cause of death was determined due to the state of the child’s body when it was discovered.
“If you can’t find a cause of death, I submit you don’t have a homicide by definition,” Krovatin proclaimed in October, according to the AP.
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