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2009 - December - APPEAL
Jeff Feldman and Susan Orlansky (Appeal Attorneys for Mechele Linehan Hughes)
appealed her conviction for first degree murder by appealing 3 evidence rulings in her
The use of the letter sent by Kent Lippink to his family
that she enjoyed and talked about the movie "the last seduction"
that she made a living as an exotic dancer.
2010 - February 23 - NEW TRIAL ORDERED
Alaska Court of Appeals:
Judge Volland made errors during the trial of Mechele Kaye (Linehan) Hughes
and threw out the jury's conviction. According to the opinion, the state's
case was mostly circumstantial relying heavily on evidence that had
no direct relevance to the murder but rather suggested that Linehan
was the kind of person who would conspire to kill Kent Leppink.
While the court held up the use of her stripper past in the court room it said
Judge Philip Volland was in error for allowing the letter and the movie to be
included in Linehan's murder trial.
The decision gave Mechele (Linehan) Hughes the right to a new trial, which
the state decided to pursue. Judge Volland is scheduled to preside over the
2010 - May 11 - Mechele Kaye (Linehan)Hughes is released on bond.
Brian C. Watt, predictive modeler and Corporate Executive, donated
the amount of bail and after paying $25,000 which was a one time
bondsman fee Hughes was released from prison.
ALASKA COURT OF APPEALS RULING
After the submission of briefs, the case was argued to the Alaska Court of Appeal
February 5, 2010, less than 60 days later, the Alaska Court of Appeals overturned
The reversal of the conviction concluded it was improper for Superior Court Judge
Philip Volland to allow two pieces of evidence into the trial: testimony about the movie,
"The Last Seduction," and a letter written by victim Kent Leppink in the days before he
died. The letter, which Leppink wrote to his parents, said Linehan was the likely culprit
if he ended up dead.
Days before 2 May 1996, (the date Kent Leppink was found dead in Hope, Alaska
with three .44 caliber bullet wounds) Kent Leppink had removed Linehan from his $1
million life insurance policy, and sent a letter to his parents stating that, "should he
meet with foul play, Linehan, John Carlin, or Scott Hilke probably had something to
do with it."
Normally, a "letter from the grave" would be considered inadmissible hearsay.
Prosecutor Pat Gullufsen convinced the judge to allow it to show Leppink's
state of mind before he died. The appeals court said that was a mistake.
The prosecution alleged that Linehan followed the plot of The Last Seduction because
she was "obsessed with the film." A former co-worker testified that Mechele told her
that Linda Fiorentino's "character was her heroine and that she wanted to be just like
her." The source for this testimony was the coworker's diary.
After reviewing the diary there was an entry by the coworker stating she watched
the movie with her boyfriend and not Mechele.
The Court of Appeals ruled the testimony of Lora Aspiotis, (a former stripper who worked
with Linehan at the time of the murder) was inappropriate. Though the jury never saw the
film, the appeals court felt that discussing it hurt her case unfairly.
The Alaska court of appeals threw out her conviction for first-degree murder stating
she should get a new trial.
Dan Sullivan (State Attorney General)
"Alaska will retry a former Olympia resident whose conviction for murdering
her former fiance was overturned earlier this month.
While the appeals court has reversed Linehan's conviction on the basis of two
particular pieces of evidence being admitted during her trial, we are confident
that there is sufficient evidence to support a second conviction."
Deputy Attorney General Rick Svobodny (Head of the Criminal Division
in the Department of Law)
"The state would take this course rather than appeal the conviction being
Jeff Feldman (Attorney for Mechele Linehan) Hughes
"I appreciate that the state determined to there was no reason to seek further
review of the appellate court's decision. d Ms. Linehan looks forward to the new
trial and an opportunity to have the evidence fairly reviewed."
Carlin was convicted separately in Leppink's death and was later killed in prison.
His son, John Carlin IV, is suing the Alaska Department of Corrections over his
father's brutal death in prison and has allegedin a lawsuit filed in Anchorage
Superior Court that prison officials failed to protect his father. He is seeking at
least $500,000 in damages.
OTHER TESTIMONY FROM THE CASE
An insurance agent testified that Linehan tried to cancel the policy days before
Leppink's death, then allegedly arranged for Carlin to murder him to collect on the policy.
Carlin's son testified that his father had lied about not owning a .44 caliber Desert Eagle.
Another witness also said that he sold a Desert Eagle in 1995, and left it at Carlin's house.
The defense argued that Leppink was an obsessive client who fabricated a romantic
relationship with Linehan. Her friends and family stated that, given her history of
volunteerism, such an act did not match her personality.
An ex-boyfriend of Linehan's, who painted a picture of Linehan as a gold-digger,
was shown by the defense to be contradicting previous testimony made in 2006
During the sentencing, a forensic psychologist testified that Linehan could not
have committed the murder,
The convictions had been largely based on the testimony of Carlin's son, who said
that he saw Linehan and Carlin washing a gun in the sink after the murder.