Police tunnel vision, the misuse of jailhouse informants, and the withholding of evidence by the state are a toxic combination. For MAIP and Womble Bond Dickinson client Matt Horner, that toxic combination has caused him to spend the past 12 years in prison for an attempted murder that was really an attempted suicide.
When Horner’s wife, Laraine Smith, was interviewed by police about a gunshot wound to her chin, she told them she couldn’t remember what had happened. This was believable, since she had several prescription painkillers in her system and had more added at the hospital. But after intense questioning at the hospital by police who believed she was protecting an abuser, she said she remembered being shot by Matt. Her story was corroborated by Richard Schaffer, a longtime (and current) jailhouse informant who received an incredible deal for his testimony — a deal that was not disclosed to the defense.
Both witnesses recanted under oath. Smith admitted that she had tried to kill herself. And several experts have examined the crime scene, toxicology reports on Smith, and investigative work by the police; those experts found that police tunnel vision led them to overlook evidence that this was a suicide attempt and that Smith’s memory was incredibly flawed because of her drug use.
At a two-day hearing in Maryland state court last month, MAIP and Womble took the next step in our efforts to free Matt. We presented evidence proving that the trial testimony of Ms. Smith and the jailhouse informant was false and that the prosecutors handling Matt’s prosecution knew or should have known the testimony was false. Although both witnesses had admitted to their perjury, they retracted those admissions at the hearing. The trial court also refused hear from our experts or from witnesses proving that Matt was not even there when Smith was shot.
We still are optimistic that we’ve presented enough to prevail, but regardless of the state court’s finding, we will continue to fight the injustice in appellate and federal courts. Until then, Matt remains Maryland Prisoner #338810.