Lone witness recants trial testimony

Bobby Wade Monaghan

After more than 12 years in prison, a Coffee County man sentenced to life without parole for first-degree sodomy will have a new day in court.

Bobby Wade Monaghan’s sentence and conviction were vacated after the lone witness against Monaghan recanted his previous testimony.

During direct examination by prominent Enterprise attorney Paul Young, purported victim Joseph Boyett admitted that he lied during the jury trial “and that (Monaghan) is innocent.”

Coffee County Circuit Judge Shannon Clark ruled Feb. 21 that the case against Monaghan is to be returned to Coffee County for retrial and that Monaghan is to be released from St. Clair Correctional Facility where he has been incarcerated for more than a decade.

“This case is proof positive,” Young said following Clark’s ruling. “A lie can kill you just as dead as the truth.”

Monaghan, 53, was convicted Aug. 15, 2006, of first-degree sodomy after a jury trial in Coffee County Circuit Judge Tom Head’s courtroom.

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.

Monaghan submitted an affidavit from Boyett, “wherein he admitted that he lied during the jury trial and that (Monaghan) is innocent,” according to Clark’s decision filed Feb. 21.

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 the 2006 trial, Boyett testified that he and Monaghan shared a cell while both were incarcerated at the Coffee County Jail and that on one occasion during the joint incarceration, Monaghan sodomized him.

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.

On Aug. 16, 2016, Boyett recanted his former testimony in a sworn affidavit, which was the basis of Monaghan’s Rule 32 hearing petition. At the hearing this month, 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 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.

Three years after his 2006 conviction, Monaghan returned to Coffee County Court claiming that his constitutional rights were violated and that his court appointment lawyers were ineffective.

In a hearing before now retired Circuit Judge Robert Barr in 2009, Monaghan told the court that neither of his court-appointed defense attorneys adequately represented him in court.

Monaghan said his constitutional rights were violated because he was not present during jury selection. He also told the court that two women with whom he had had a previous altercation were in the jury venire at the time of his trial and that he had asked that they not be selected as jurors.

One of Monaghan’s former attorneys testified at that time that he had honored his client’s request in ensuring that the women were not included on the jury and that Monaghan was, in fact, present during jury selection.

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