Minnesota man’s murder conviction vacated in wife’s death

A Minnesota man who served practically 25 years in connection along with his spouse’s dying walked out of jail on Friday after authorities vacated his homicide convictions and allowed him to plead responsible to manslaughter, citing an issue with professional testimony from a health care provider whose statements in different instances have additionally come beneath scrutiny.

Thomas Rhodes, who’s now 63, was convicted in 1998 of first- and second-degree homicide within the dying of his 36-year-old spouse, Jane Rhodes, who fell overboard and drowned on a night-time boat journey together with her husband on Inexperienced Lake in Spicer in 1996.

The homicide conviction hinged on the testimony of Dr. Michael McGee, who mentioned Rhodes grabbed his spouse by the neck, threw her overboard and ran her over a number of occasions, the Legal professional Normal’s Workplace mentioned in a press release Friday. Rhodes informed investigators his spouse fell out of the boat and disappeared whereas he frantically looked for her at midnight.

The Conviction Overview Unit within the Legal professional Normal’s Workplace examined the case. As a part of that investigation, a forensic pathologist discovered that Jane Rhodes’ dying was not inconsistent with an unintentional fall, the workplace mentioned.

“With the advantage of an intensive evaluate of all of the proof and circumstances, the CRU discovered that the medical proof utilized in Mr. Rhodes’ conviction was flawed,” the assertion mentioned.

“I look ahead to hugging my sons Eric and Jason, being grandfather to my six great grandkids, and having time to create new recollections with household and pals,” Rhodes informed the Mankato Free Press on Friday.

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Messages left Saturday at cellphone numbers listed for Michael McGee weren’t instantly returned. Efforts to succeed in him by way of social media weren’t instantly profitable.

The state’s report didn’t exonerate Rhodes: the Legal professional Normal’s Workplace mentioned there was ample proof to assist a conviction of second-degree manslaughter, saying negligence led to his spouse’s dying. Nonetheless, Rhodes has spent practically 25 years in jail, which is greater than twice the utmost sentence allowed for the manslaughter conviction.

Rhodes drove a small, unstable boat late at night time at high pace, realizing that his spouse couldn’t swim, the assertion mentioned. She was neither carrying a life jacket nor have been life jackets out there. Additionally, the boat had no flashlights or a fast method to name for assist.

On Friday, a Kandiyohi County decide vacated Rhodes’ homicide convictions. The Minnesota Division of Corrections mentioned the decide then accepted a plea to second-degree manslaughter. Rhodes was sentenced to 4 years in jail, and received credit score for time served, which led to his launch, the corrections division mentioned.

Rhodes is the primary individual launched in Minnesota because the Conviction Overview Unit was created in 2021. The unit evaluations authorized instances for individuals who declare to be harmless.

“He was beaming the entire time,” Hayley Drozdowski-Poxleitner, a spokesperson for the Nice North Innocence Challenge, mentioned of Rhodes. “This has been a protracted, very long time coming.”

The Nice North Innocence Challenge, which labored with the Legal professional Normal’s Workplace, mentioned in a information launch that 9 forensic pathologists reviewed the case and located that Jane Rhodes’ accidents have been most probably brought on by a blow to her head, probably from falling out of the boat or from an unintentional hit by the boat as Rhodes searched the water.

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Not one of the forensic pathologists would have referred to as her dying a homicide, the group mentioned.

Testimony from McGee has been questioned in a number of instances lately. In 2021, a federal decide threw out the dying sentence of a person who was convicted of kidnapping within the 2003 slaying of North Dakota faculty scholar Dru Sjodin, partly due to testimony from McGee. That decide mentioned new proof confirmed McGee, the previous Ramsey County Medical Examiner, was “guessing” on the witness stand. Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. is predicted to be re-sentenced, and prosecutors have mentioned they are going to nonetheless search the dying penalty.

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Stafford reported from Liberty, Missouri. AP author Amy Forliti contributed to this report from Minneapolis.