DeKalb County
5:01 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Brief Filed In McCullough Appeal Claims Unfair Trial

Jack McCullough is serving a life sentence for the kidnapping and murder of Maria Ridulph in 1957. It was one the nation's oldest cold cases. A recently filed appellate brief calls into question evidence presented at McCullough's 2012 trial in DeKalb County.

Jack McCullough
Credit Credit file / DeKalb County Sheriff's Department

Assistant Deputy Defender Paul Glaser submitted that prosecutors used unreliable evidence, which included personal memories from decades ago, inmate witnesses, and a statement from McCullough's mother just before her death while on painkillers.

The brief says "the law demands more than nostalgia."

The DeKalb County's State's Attorney's office says the timing of the brief was expected, and the Appellate Prosecutor & Appellate Defender are now the parties involved in this case.

The notice of appeal was filed in January of 2013. It wasn't until Friday when the appellate defender filed the first brief as part of McCullough's appeal.

DeKalb County Public Defender Tom McCulloch represented McCullough at his 2012 trial. He says he isn't surprised:

"There's a huge backlog. I tell clients that they can expect like two years from the time they initiate the appeal until they get a decision. Everything is transferred from the trial court up there, but then there's probably a year's worth of wait before someone picks that file up," --Tom McCulloch, DeKalb County public defender

McCulloch says he still is in regular contact with McCullough, but serves in an advisory role at this point.

The office of the appellate prosecutor now has time to respond to the arguments in the brief.

Arguments listed in brief:

The evidence against Jack McCullough –personal memories of what occurred 55 years ago; a photo identification made 53 years after the incident; testimony from jailhouse informants; innocuous statements from the defendant; and an improperly admitted and inconclusive statement from the defendant’s mother while on morphine and Haldol just before her death– was so unreasonable, so improbable, and so unsatisfactory as to create a reasonable doubt that he was responsible for a 1957 murder, kidnapping, and abduction of infant.

Especially given the 55 years which passed between the offenses and the trial, the judge’s decisions to prohibit Jack McCullough from introducing FBI records prepared at the time of the offense, despite their status as ancient documents and public records and their probative value in establishing Mr. McCullough’s alibi, and to prohibit Mr. McCullough from presenting testimony showing another man committed the offense, amounted to gross abuses of discretion denying Mr. McCullough his fundamental right to present a defense.

The admission of a statement allegedly made by the defendant’s mother 37 years after the offenses, under the erroneous guise of it being against her penal interest, while she was terminally ill and being administered morphine and Haldol, together with testimony from a witness that, years prior to the offenses, she was given a piggyback ride by some man, and testimony that firearm ammunition was found in the defendant’s home safe 54 years after the offenses, constituted gross abuses of discretion by the trial judge resulting in irreparable prejudice to Mr. McCullough’s right to a fair trial.

Where the prosecution failed to present any evidence bringing this case within the exception to the statute of limitations, the kidnapping and abduction convictions must be vacated. Alternatively, the kidnapping judgment must be vacated on one-act, one-crime grounds.

According to the brief,

"For the foregoing reasons, Jack McCullough, the defendant-appellant,
respectfully requests, in the alternative, that this Honorable Court:

1. Reverse the judgment below; or
2. Reverse the convictions and remand the cause for a new trial; or
3. Reverse the convictions for kidnapping and abduction of infant; or
4. Vacate the conviction for kidnapping."