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

Page 9 of 10

And in recordings of Molly's conversations with attorneys from the Boulder DA's office in February 2008, she also appears to acknowledge that she knew early on that McCormick wasn't her lawyer. "[McCormick] came to the dependency-and-neglect hearing," Molly tells prosecutors, referring to a hearing a few days after Jason was admitted to the hospital. "That was the first time it was explained to me that I had to have a separate attorney."

According to a statement Recht prepared on behalf of Alex and J. Midyette, these audio clips — transcriptions of which he provided Westword — "are just the tip of the iceberg. There is contradiction after contradiction in her statements. Listening to all of her tapes, one gets a sense of how Molly came to believe she needed to concoct a new story which would throw Alex under the bus in order to save herself from sixteen years in prison." And Recht says he will be providing copies of the recordings to the Boulder DA's office, "to help them respond to the lies in the supplemental motion."

The Midyettes are doing this because Alex, too, is appealing his conviction. "This impacts directly on Alex and his ability to get a fair hearing before the district court judge in his own case," explains Recht. "If the judge believes the lies in Molly's motion, that will inevitably negatively impact Alex's case."

As for Molly's claim that McCormick told her the night before she testified that if she incriminated Alex she'd go to jail, "that is a total lie," McCormick says. "I have never had a conversation with Molly where I said, 'Don't say anything incriminating about Alex.' And, as far as I knew, she had absolutely nothing incrimating about Alex." McCormick declines to discuss whether or not he talked to Molly at all that night. But he does note that "Molly, her mother and Kay Midyette were highly motivated to provide the lawyers with information about possible medical explanations for Jason Jay's death. Never did any of those people come forward about Alex or Molly causing the death of Jason Jay."

Parts of Molly's story seem to give even her staunchest supporters pause. Why didn't she speak up about Alex's alleged abuse? "I just feel like at some point, I wish she would have said something," says friend Carlyla Dawson. "There were times when she could have walked away." At Alex's trial, both Dawson and Dancer Vernet testified that they'd seen Alex handling cocaine in the weeks prior to Jason's death. Could Molly really not have known he was still doing the drug? As Vernet now puts it, "I am quite positive that Molly knew."

But such reservations with Molly's story assume that she was capable of acting rationally before, during and immediately after her trial — and both Molly and her lawyers argue that she wasn't. People who've undergone such abuse don't function logically, says Ruttenberg; they fail to notice things they otherwise would, they fail to act with their own best interests in mind, they fail to break free from horrible situations at the first opportunity. Even Recht, who questions Lenore Walker's qualifications — "I believe Lenore Walker identifies battered woman syndrome in virtually every case," he says — has used the syndrome as a defense in court.

It took Molly months to decide to speak out about Alex, Ruttenberg points out, and months more before she was ready to file for divorce. "She didn't stop loving Alex that first night when she started feeling safe; it was a process for her to have time to think by herself, without the constant hovering and bullying by the Midyettes, for her to have time to put together what she thought and what she decided," she explains. "She truly wanted to believe that Alex never did anything to the baby. She never saw him do anything, it was too much for her to imagine that he could have done something, and it is still hard for her to understand."

Molly may not be completely innocent, Dawson suggests: "Looking back at the things Alex did, that alone places an amount of responsibility on her." But there's a major difference between making mistakes and being guilty of knowingly acting in a way that leads to your son's death. "I think in some ways she feels this is what she deserves," says Dawson. "But I don't think she should be punished like she has been."

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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