Monday Feb 08 2010
Madsen goes home after 4 1/2 years
By: Eric Laughlin, The Press Tribune
DA moves to drop murder case after third mistrial
After three murder trials and more than four and a half years in custody, Caleb John Madsen walked out of the Placer County Jail a free man Monday afternoon. The 28-year-old Granite Bay man’s release came about an hour after prosecutor Bill Marchi announced that his office had decided not to further pursue the case. That decision came a week after a jury found Madsen not guilty of first-degree murder, but deadlocked 6 to 6 on a charge of murder in the second degree. In two previous trials, jury panels had deadlocked 7 to 5 and 10 to 2 in favor of guilt on the first-degree murder charge. Marchi did not provide comment after the brief court hearing, but District Attorney Brad Fenocchio was quick to issue a press release. “We presented this murder case to three separate juries,” Fenocchio wrote. “Each jury was unable to unanimously agree. In light of those prior inabilities, our view is that now a fourth trial would also likely result in a jury divided. Accordingly, at this time, we will not attempt to persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of the defendant’s guilt.” For Dan and Karen Madsen, the release of their son marked an emotional conclusion to a long-fought battle to prove his innocence. Karen Madsen appeared ecstatic when she first caught sight of her son walking toward a gate outside the jail. “There he is,” she screamed. “Caleb.” Moments later, with cheers erupting from his supporters, Caleb Madsen emerged through the gate and hugged his mother for the first time since his July 2005 arrest. He then extended a lengthy hug to his father and to his attorney, Mary Beth Acton. When he eventually walked toward his parents' car, he appeared almost like a deer in headlights. When asked by reporters how it felt to be free, he responded only by saying, “It’s good to be out.” When the reunited family then proceeded to drive out of the jail parking lot, tears streamed down attorney Acton’s face. “Look at that,” she said. “Isn’t that something? Finally free after all that time. Hopefully he goes on to live a very productive life.” Acton, who represented Madsen from the start, said her client will likely need counseling to readjust to society after being incarcerated for four and a half years. “I still just don’t understand that,” she said. “How can someone be presumed guilty, but locked up all that time?” The Roseville attorney said her heart goes out to the family of Christopher Worth, whose brutal stabbing murder Madsen was charged with in 2005. “I don’t for a second doubt that the Worth family has gone through tremendous suffering,” she said. “But they just didn’t have the right guy.” Worth’s mother Linda, however, has long disagreed with that assertion. Outside the courtroom she said she was very saddened over Madsen’s freedom. “I just feel like the justice system failed,” she said. “My son would have been 28 if he were alive today. There is nothing that can bring him back.” She then reaffirmed her prior statement that she fears Madsen is still dangerous and could be a threat to his own family. “I’m hoping the family gets him some significant help,” she said. “For them, dealing with him has been a longtime struggle.” Madsen’s arrest had come days after Worth’s body was found in a field off Cavitt Stallman Road, near both of the men’s homes. Though Madsen had been the last person to see Worth alive, and some circumstantial evidence pointed to Madsen, a jury acquitted him of the first-degree murder charge, finding that there was no evidence of premeditation. The six who voted not guilty on the second-degree murder charge had not been convinced there was enough forensic evidence presented at trial. Though Madsen is now free, the prosecution still has the power to refile the second-degree murder charge, should any new evidence surface pointing in his direction. During Monday's hearing, Madsen was also convicted of two misdemeanor assault charges related to two separate incidents that took place in the jail. In a January 2006 incident, he assaulted another inmate. In October 2008, he assaulted a jail guard. Though both convictions came with jail time, Madsen was given credit for time served. Another noteworthy item of discussion during the hearing was an allegation of juror misconduct with regard to the most recent trial. Prosecutor Marchi told Judge Robert McElhany that one of the jurors came forward to investigators last week, reporting that four members on the panel had researched the case on the Internet prior to deliberations. Such behavior is forbidden on the grounds that it could create bias. But Marchi said it did not impact his office’s decision to drop the case.