Longform

Molly Midyette, a mother sentenced to sixteen years for the death of her son, speaks out

Page 10 of 10

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It's mid-afternoon at the La Vista women's correctional facility by the time Molly finishes her tale, and time for her to return to her normal routine: her daily, meditative runs; the GED course and English-as-a-second-language classes she helps teach. Then, in the evening, it's back to the cell she shares with five other women, where she reads a few pages from her favorite book of late — Life, by Keith Richards — or looks at the photos of Jason she's tacked up on the wall. (She has to be careful with the photos; items belonging to high-profile inmates tend to disappear and then pop up for sale online.)

And this is how Molly's days will pass at least until 2013, when she's first eligible to apply for placement in Boulder community corrections. Unless she wins a new trial, that is.

So far, that fight hasn't been going well. After DA Garnett opposed a Colorado Court of Appeals order for the District Court to look into claims of legal sabotage in Molly's case, arguing that Ruttenberg and Carberry's supplemental motion on the issue addressed too many issues and was filed too late, the Court of Appeals rescinded that decision, taking the case back into its jurisdiction. "I would never second-guess the decisions my predecessor made," says Garnett. "One of the things people forget is twelve members of my community sat and heard all the evidence in this case over a couple of weeks and returned a guilty verdict. I understand Ms. Midyette and her parents think that verdict is incorrect, but I have a lot of respect for the process, and I don't want to minimize or undercut what those folks went through, especially when it involves the death of a child."

Molly's lawyers have since filed a motion to dismiss the Court of Appeals case, and instead will argue in Boulder District Court that Truman's original legal defense was ineffective.

In the meantime, Molly's conviction and appeal have taken a heavy toll on her parents, who've blown through their retirement savings paying legal bills and now spend every evening talking to Molly on the phone and every weekend driving to Pueblo to see her. And it's caused rifts in the community. Last April, just after a fundraiser held by "Friends of Molly," a group dedicated to raising money for and awareness of Molly's case, an encounter with Kay Midyette at the Boulder Target caused Molly's sister-in-law, Kori, to call the police. "Every now and then I do have the feeling that it would be easier to just do my time," Molly says.

Nor has the legal fight made losing Jason any easier, or lessened the pain of the anniversaries that come up every year: December 17, when Jason was born; February 24, when he went to the hospital; March 3, when he died. But Molly has discovered she's stronger than she imagined. "It's taught me what I can endure as a human being," she says.

Like her hero and namesake, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, she's discovered she can endure a tragedy and make it through. And when she does get out of prison — whether thanks to her appeal or not — Molly says she wants to focus on criminal law, teaching others how to put up a fight like she has.

"I didn't do this," she says forcefully, leaning forward in her chair. "It's gotten to the point that it's not about getting out of prison for me; it's about clearing my name. I could be on parole, but I am still going to fight this. It's the right thing to do by Jason, and it's the right thing to do for the justice system. From the very beginning, I have said I didn't do this, and I am not going to back off from that."

And with that, the interview is over, and a prison guard arrives to take her away. Molly is led down a corridor, and, with a faint smile and wave, she is gone.

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner