On the afternoon of December 21, 2007, twelve jurors filed into a Boulder courtroom, ready to issue their verdict for the city's most sensational trial in years.
Over the previous two weeks, these jurors and everyone else in the packed courtroom had heard all about the very short life of Jason Jay Midyette. On February 24, 2006, the eleven-week-old had been rushed to Children's Hospital in Denver, where doctors had found him damaged almost beyond comprehension, with dozens of broken bones and a massive head injury that had left him comatose. Jason never regained consciousness; he died a week later, the victim of what the county coroner would rule a homicide.
Jason's death captured headlines in Colorado and beyond — not just because of the horrific nature of his passing, but because of his parents: Alex and Molly Midyette, the son and daughter-in-law of J. Nold Midyette, a wealthy architect and Boulder real-estate mogul. And as more than a year passed without any charges being filed, without any new details emerging, people began to wonder if in Boulder, a city still haunted by the ghost of JonBenét Ramsey, justice could be bought and sold.
But in May 2007, a Boulder grand jury indicted both Alex and Molly for child abuse resulting in death. Molly was the first to go to trial. She'd sat in the courtroom as doctors testified that they were struck by how long Jason's parents waited before they sought help, as social workers and police officers described an uncooperative family that seemed to care more about its own well-being than the child's.
Finally, Molly had taken the stand — the only witness called by her lawyer, superstar Denver defense attorney Craig Truman. She didn't know anything was wrong with Jason until it was apparently too late, she told the court. She didn't know how to explain all the damage inflicted on her baby, the brain contusion and the broken bones. "I have no idea," the emotional 29-year-old law-school graduate said. "I can't explain any of them."
And now, after just six hours of deliberation, the jurors had made their decision: Molly was guilty of child abuse resulting in death — a charge that carried the same potential sentence as second-degree murder. The courtroom erupted when the verdict was read; Alex, a 6' 4" bear of a man, started screaming obscenities as his ashen-faced wife was taken away in handcuffs.
After the courtroom cleared, Truman went down to the basement holding cells, where he found Molly crying and rocking back and forth. Nearly in tears himself, Truman apologized. As he'd just told Molly's parents, it had been a long time since he'd lost the trial of an innocent client.
Molly looked up and shook her head. "No, you don't understand," she said. "There was so much that I couldn't tell you. I wasn't permitted to tell you, and so you never really had a chance."
Molly Midyette, dressed in a green prison smock, looks thinner than in the three-year-old courtroom photos, her 5' 1" frame lean from daily, methodical exercise. It's unusual for her to be meeting visitors here, in an administrators' conference room at the La Vista women's correctional facility in Pueblo, but the regular visiting rooms are occupied by an inmate GED test. Besides, as a member of the prison's "Incentive Unit," reserved for infraction-free inmates, Molly has earned some leeway.
Molly seems nervous about her first-ever media interview. But she has a story to tell, she says, a story that never came out in all the courtroom drama and flashy media reports, a story she herself ignored until it was too late. Once she begins to tell it, she talks for hours — her dark brown eyes looking off into space as she recounts the details. She pauses only when she's interrupted by droning announcements over the prison-wide intercom: Yard is open, yard is open. Return to normal operations, return to normal operations. Some parts she tells dispassionately; other parts bring her to tears.
Molly's story is bolstered by her parents and friends, as well as a lengthy court motion filed in January pushing for a new trial. But it's also strenuously disputed by people she used to consider family.
The story begins with another Colorado woman named Molly, one even more famous: the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown. Growing up in Boulder, Molly Bowers, as Molly Midyette was known then, usually had her nose in a history book — and often it was one that followed the exploits of Molly Brown, the Denver woman snubbed by socialites who didn't let a tragedy the size of an iceberg bring her down.
Molly admired the strength of her historical hero, a strength she didn't see in herself. While Molly was smart, athletic and pretty, she didn't seem to recognize the attributes that everyone else saw. "In all honesty, there is depression there, there is anxiety, there has been a struggle," says her mother, Jane Bowers. "She doesn't always know how to trust her own instincts."