After more than 12 years in prison, charges against a Coffee County man sentenced to life without parole for first-degree sodomy have been dismissed.
Charges against Bobby Wade Monaghan were dismissed, and all court costs waived, by Twelfth Judicial Circuit Judge Shannon Clark June 26.
Clark had ruled Feb. 21 that Monaghan’s Aug. 15, 2006 conviction and life without parole sentence be vacated after the lone witness against him recanted his previous testimony. She ruled that Monaghan was to be released from St. Clair Correctional Facility where he had been incarcerated from more than a decade.
That ruling opened the way for Monaghan to be retried on the charge of first degree sodomy but the June 26 ruling that the matter is “dismissed with prejudice and the defendant is discharged,” ended that. Dismissal of a case with prejudice is a final judgment that essentially means that the state is barred from bringing an action on the same charge.
“It has been a long and very hard road for Mr. Monaghan and his family but they never quit on him,” said renowned Enterprise attorney Paul Young, who represented Monaghan. “This case demonstrates just how easy it is to be wrongfully accused and convicted.
“Our freedoms really do hang by a very thin thread,” Young added. “The presumption of innocence is the bedrock principle upon which the American justice system is based– but that presumption is only as real as we allow it to be by what we put into practice in the courtroom.”
Monaghan, 53, was convicted Aug. 15, 2006, of first-degree sodomy after a jury deliberated some four hours in Coffee County Circuit Judge Tom Head’s courtroom.
Monaghan, who was initially in jail on rape, incestand sodomy charges, was indicted of the charge after his cellmate at the Coffee County Jail, Joseph Boyett, reported that Monaghan forced him to perform oral sex, according to The Southeast Sun files.
The cellmate's accusation of the assault was made a few weeks after he says the incident occurred. Boyett claimed that Monaghan intimidated him into performing the act by giving him descriptions of how he had previously assaulted other prisoners.
When questioned by defense attorneys about how he had been intimidated by Monaghan, who is of a slender build, Boyett replied, "Bobby's size has no bearing on his level of intimidation."
The defense contended that because of his accusation, the victim was released from the Coffee County Jail on his own recognizance and noted that making up the story could have, in fact, been an attempt to be released from jail early.
Boyett told jurors at that time that he did not ask to be released. He also said that he did not report the incident immediately because it was an event he did not want to dwell on.
Monaghan was sentenced to Life without Parole in accordance with the Habitual Felony Offender Act. That conviction and sentence were affirmed in subsequent appellate and post-conviction proceedings.
Monaghan’s case returned to Coffee County in February on a Rule 32 hearing with claims that evidence had been unveiled proving his innocence.
On Aug. 16, 2016, Boyett recanted his former testimony in a sworn affidavit, which was the basis of Monaghan’s Rule 32 hearing petition.
In order to be eligible for a Rule 32 hearing, a person is expected to show “by a preponderance of the evidence” that new facts exist that would have probably produced a different verdict if known at the time of the trial or sentencing and could have established that the defendant is innocent of the crime for which he or she was convicted.
“When independent evidence corroborates the testimony that a witness later seeks to recant, the grant of a new trial rests within the sound discretion of the trial judge,” Clark wrote in her ruling. “However, when a defendant is convicted solely on the testimony of the now recanting witness, it is an abuse of discretion not to allow a new trial.”
Clark noted that the only evidence presented by the District Attorney’s Office during Monaghan’s 2006 trial was Boyett’s testimony.
During direct examination, Boyett admitted that he lied during the jury trial “and that (Monaghan) is innocent.
At the hearing in February, he reiterated that recantation. “Mr. Boyett appeared and testified that he executed the affidavit and appeared for hearing voluntarily because he wanted to fix a wrong,” Clark wrote in her ruling. “He denied having any contact with the defendant or his family since the trial and said that he was not threatened, coerced, offered or promised anything for his recantation.
“Mr. Boyett explained that the defendant was innocent and that he lied about the alleged sodomy in 2004 in order to obtain leniency on his own charges and to be released from jail,” the ruling continued. “Mr. Boyett claimed that he was manipulated by an investigator and others involved in the prosecution of the defendant and that his statement was rehearsed several times before it was recorded.”
In her February ruling, Clark noted that Boyett “did not waiver and repeatedly stated that he falsely accused (Monaghan) of sodomy and that his testimony at trial was not true.
“Because Mr. Boyett’s trial testimony was the only evidence presented and his recantation establishes the defendant’s innocence of the crime for which he was convicted, it is certain that these material facts would produce a different result if presented at trial,” Clark ruled. “Accordingly, (Monaghan) is due to be granted relief and afforded a new trial.”
Boyett returned to Florida after being released from Coffee County Jail in 2004. He “admitted that he made no effort to contact law enforcement about the sodomy claim and appeared at (Monaghan’s) trial only because a detective came to Florida, served him with a summons and brought him back to Alabama,” Clark noted in her ruling.
“This case is proof positive,” said Young. “A lie can kill you just as dead as the truth.”