Longform

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

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The prosecutors didn't suggest that Molly was necessarily responsible for the injuries — but they didn't need to.

"The current version of the child-abuse statutes, I believe, was enacted in the early 1990s," says Stan Garnett, Mary Lacy's replacement as Boulder district attorney. "When I was prosecuting in the early '80s, it was much more difficult to prosecute child abuse. It used to be drafted more like an assault statute, where you have to prove exactly what happened. The change was to make it clear that the legislature puts the responsibility on people who care for children, not only not to harm them, but also to make sure they get help if there is an issue."

Truman didn't call any witnesses other than Molly — not Alex, not any character witnesses, not any medical experts to refute the testimony put forward by prosecutors that suggested Jason had suffered extended trauma. But then, during closing arguments, he surprised everybody when he told the jury that he believed Alex had committed child abuse.

Behind the scenes, all hell broke loose. When the jury began deliberating, Molly says, McCormick drove her and her mother to J.'s office on Pearl Street, where Alex sequestered the two in a room and berated them, accusing Molly's family of planning a courtroom ambush. He then turned to Molly and said, "Your lawyer just got you convicted. Did you know he was going to say that?"

Molly shook her head. "I defended you," she remembers telling him. "I defended you with my heart and soul and everything I had."

Then Alex seemed to have a change of heart. Run away with me, he pleaded. A friend had a plane waiting on the tarmac, he told her. They could go to some island where they wouldn't need passports, escape to a place where they could leave all this pain behind.

"I said, 'No, I am not going anywhere,'" remembers Molly. "In my mind, even after the trial, I thought they were not going to convict me."

She was wrong.

******

The day after Molly's conviction, the day after she'd told her lawyer that there was so much he'd never heard, Truman visited his client in Boulder County Jail. He found Molly wearing a dark-green gunny sack specially designed to keep inmates from hurting themselves; the jail had her on a suicide watch. But Molly told him that behind these bars, she finally felt protected, she finally felt free. And then she says she told him about how the Midyettes had interfered with her case from the beginning and used McCormick to do so.

"I trusted [McCormick] would act on my behalf because I had known him since I was a child. And it didn't occur to me as a lawyer that he would be doing things he shouldn't be doing," she says. "But they put Alex's interest so much in front of mine. It was never, 'What can we do to help Molly?' It was always, 'What can we do so Molly doesn't say anything?'"

In follow-up meetings over the next few days, Molly told Truman more about the abuse she'd suffered while living with Alex. It was enough for Truman to call a woman he'd worked with in the past: Lenore Walker, a psychologist who's been referred to as "the mother of the battered woman syndrome." Once based in Denver, Walker now lives in Florida — and in January 2008, she flew to Colorado to meet with Molly in jail, where she was awaiting sentencing. Walker concluded that Molly was in fact a battered woman, someone suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of physical assault and other abuse. "I spent two or three days talking to her, testing her, and then said, 'Yeah, there is no question that she has been abused,'" Walker says. "People saw bits of it, but no one saw the whole thing. Can you imagine feeling safer when you go off to prison? The father-in-law's abuse of power was also very visible in this particular case." (Truman declined to speak with Westword for this story.)

While Molly waited in jail, Molly's parents remember, McCormick was bad-mouthing Truman to them, asking questions about his post-conviction strategy and suggesting that they find a replacement. He even had defense attorney Phil Cherner meet with Molly on the pretense that she wanted a new lawyer — something Molly says she never asked for.

At that point, Molly and her family decided to sever all ties with the Midyettes. Molly stopped accepting phone calls and visits from Alex, and her parents cut off all contact with Alex's parents and McCormick, their onetime friend.

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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