Murder of Jodi Jones

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The murder of Jodi Jones, a 14-year-old girl, took place in Easthouses, Scotland on June 30, 2003. Her 15-year-old boyfriend, Luke Mitchell, came under suspicion, but it was several months before he was arrested. Mitchell was tried for the murder and after Scotland's longest single-accused trial, Mitchell was convicted in January 2005. He was sentenced to detention without limit of time with a minimum of 20 years.

Background[edit]

Mitchell's parents separated when he was 11, and he was brought up in relatively comfortable circumstances with hobbies that included riding horses and motorbikes. Mitchell went to St. David's RC High School in Dalkeith. He was in the same year as Jones and supplied her and his circle of friends with cannabis on the school premises. Around March 2003 when both Mitchell and Jones were 14 years old, Mitchell became her first serious boyfriend, and began having sex with her.[1] Unknown to Jones, Mitchell was also intimate with another girl at the time. Mitchell was a good student, but a teacher became concerned about the violence in an essay he had written. In the weeks before she was murdered, Jones's social life, which largely revolved around Mitchell, was curtailed by her mother.[2] At about 5pm on 30 June 2003 Jones went out, saying she was going to see Mitchell. Her body was found several hours later; she had been murdered in a "savage knife attack".[3]

Suspicion falls on Mitchell[edit]

The body was behind a high wall in a wooded area. Mitchell found it at around 10.30pm, while he was with members of Jones's family who were out searching for her.[4] The circumstances in which Mitchell was able to find the body were later alleged by prosecutors to indicate his guilty knowledge. The Jones family made it known that Mitchell was not welcome at the funeral. School authorities cited concern about Mitchell's safety in unsuccessfully attempting to prevent his return to school; two months after the murder he was suspended after objecting to being separated from other pupils.

After his discovery of the body, Mitchell was initially questioned as a witness; he quickly became the main focus of the investigation. There had been media speculation that he was the sole suspect, and 10 months later Mitchell was arrested and charged with the crime.[5]

Trial[edit]

At his trial at the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh, Mitchell pleaded not guilty and lodged a special defence of alibi: that he was at home cooking dinner at the time of the murder.[6] He did not testify at his trial, which was the longest and most expensive of a single accused in Scottish legal history.[7]

Prosecution case[edit]

The main plank of the case against him was an attribution of "guilty knowledge"; in finding the body, the prosecution said Mitchell had demonstrated that he already knew where it was. Prosecutors also said that a witness had seen someone resembling Mitchell at the scene, and they accused Mitchell of giving a false alibi. Mitchell's brother testified he had been viewing Internet pornography in the house at the time Mitchell said he had been there; under cross examination Mitchell's brother said he would only have done this if he thought the house to be otherwise empty. Mitchell's brother said he had not seen Mitchell in the house that afternoon, thereby failing to corroborate his defence of being in the family home at the time of the murder.[8]

The prosecution said Mitchell had taken an interest in the The Black Dahlia case, a 1947 homicide of a young woman whose body was severely mutilated in a way that the Crown alleged was similar to injuries suffered by Jones. A knife pouch was also found in Mitchell's possession on which he had marked "JJ 1989 – 2003" and "The finest day I ever had was when tomorrow never came". The prosecution said it would be unlikely for anyone but the killer to remember someone killed with a knife in this way.[9] According to the prosecution, Mitchell's clothes may have been destroyed in a garden incinerator which some neighbours thought was giving off a strange smell. No forensic evidence was recovered from the incinerator, which was an 11" diameter log burner.

Defence arguments[edit]

In response to the prosecution accusation that only prior knowledge could have explained the way Mitchell was able to discover the body lying behind a wall, lawyers for Mitchell said had been aided by his dog. To allow the jury to explore the plausibility of these claims, a mock-up wall was erected in the Laigh Hall, below Parliament Hall within Parliament House, across the road from the High Court of Justiciary building in Edinburgh's Old Town, where the trial was being heard. A visit by the jury to the murder scene was also arranged. Mitchell maintained his alibi, that he had been at home at the time of the murder.

Verdict and sentence[edit]

On 21 January 2005, the jury found him guilty after five hours of deliberation. Mitchell, aged sixteen at the time of his conviction, was condemned as being "truly wicked" by Judge Lord Nimmo Smith. He was also found guilty of a separate charge of supplying cannabis.

Mitchell's sentencing took place on 11 February 2005. Nimmo Smith told Mitchell that he would spend a minimum of 20 years in prison before being considered for parole.

Appeals[edit]

In March 2006, Mitchell was granted leave to appeal against his conviction (and his length of sentence) at the High Court of Justiciary sitting as the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh, on the grounds that the trial judge should have moved the trial outside the city. The Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh heard Mitchell's appeal in February 2008, and in May 2008 his original conviction was upheld by Lord Osborne, Lord Kingarth and Lord Hamilton. They ruled that there was sufficient evidence in law that Mitchell could be convicted on and, rejected his other grounds of appeal although they stated that the way police had questioned Mitchell on 14 August 2003 had been "outrageous" and was "to be deplored."

On 2 February 2011, Mitchell's appeal against sentence was refused by a two to one majority. Lord Justice Clerk, Lord Gill, sitting with Lord Hardie and Lady Cosgrove stated that he had the utmost sympathy for the family of the victim and that he understood entirely why this murder should have caused such public revulsion. Nevertheless, he was of the opinion that the sentencing judge should not have imposed a punishment part of such severity on such a young offender. He stated that justice would be done in this case if the punishment part of the sentence were fixed at 15 years. He did not consider that they were precluded from that disposal by anything said in the guidance given in HM Adv v Boyle and Ors (supra). He regretted, therefore, that he had to differ from his Lordship and her Ladyship.[10]

Cadder appeal refused[edit]

On 15 April 2011, Mitchell's bid to challenge his conviction for murder following a human rights ruling by the Supreme Court in the Cadder case was rejected. His lawyer told the Appeal Court in Edinburgh that his trial was unfair because he had no access to a lawyer during an interview. Lord Osborne sitting with Lord Hamilton (Lord Justice General) and Lord Kingarth told Mitchell that the application for leave to lodge the additional ground was refused. The appellant's appeal against sentence was finally disposed of on 2 February 2011 and in such circumstances there did not exist a live appeal in respect of which leave could be granted under section 110(4).[11]

In November 2011 Mitchell was refused leave to take his appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, on the basis that his previous appeal had been dealt with before the Cadder ruling and could therefore not be re-opened.[12]

Frontline Scotland[edit]

In May 2007, a BBC Scotland Frontline Scotland documentary special on BBC One explored a theory – not followed up by police during the initial investigation – that the murder may have been committed not by Mitchell, but by a student and heavy drug user who was alleged to have handed in an essay about killing a girl in the woods a few weeks before the murder. A friend of this suspect saw him soon after the murder and claimed that he was heavily scratched about the face. The documentary also challenged the theory that Mitchell was an obsessive Marilyn Manson fan and had a keen interest in the Black Dahlia murder. The documentary stated that there is no evidence that Mitchell knew of the Dahlia case until after the murder. In the documentary Professor Anthony Busuttil, when asked about the similarities between Jones's and Short's injuries said, "there were major dissimilarities." [13] The Jones family were reported in the Daily Record to be "outraged" at the programme, though the newspaper stated that none of them had watched it.[13]

SCCRC[edit]

On 20 July 2012, lawyers acting for Mitchell launch a fresh bid to have his conviction overturned when a 300-page dossier was hand delivered to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC). The dossier included claims that a Mitchell lookalike may have confused eyewitnesses. The lawyers, including at least one senior legal figure, are said to be so concerned by Mitchell's conviction, which relied on an entirely circumstantial case, that they donated their services free of charge.[14]

In July 2014, the SCCRC revealed that police officers breached Luke Mitchell’s human rights when they questioned him over the murder of his teenage girlfriend Jodi Jones. However, they determined he was not the victim of a miscarriage of justice. The SCCRC report made it clear that, despite Mitchell’s claims that he was innocent, there are no grounds to challenge the guilty verdict. Chief executive Gerard Sinclair wrote: 'The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has now completed its inquiries into whether or not a miscarriage of justice may have occurred in respect of Mr Luke Muir Mitchell’s conviction and sentence. The Commission has decided not to refer Mr Mitchell’s case to the High Court.’[15] Immediately following the decision by the SCCRC, it was announced that Mitchell would take his case to the European Courts although the competency of such a move is questionable since the ECHR has a strict six-month deadline for applications pursuant to the case being heard by the domestic court.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "scotland, Killer obsessed with occult". BBC News. 21 January 2005. Retrieved 20 January 2013. 
  2. ^ "Luke Mitchell: A teenage killer obsessed with music, drugs and the occult | Edinburgh and East | STV News". News.stv.tv. 23 July 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "Killer a Local Man Scotsman Online". News.scotsman.com. 2 July 2003. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  4. ^ "Family Find Body On Country Path Scotsman Online". News.scotsman.com. 2 July 2003. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  5. ^ "Jodi's boyfriend, now 16, can be named as suspect". News.scotsman.com. 24 July 2004. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  6. ^ http://news.scotsman.com/jodijonesmurder/Boyfriend-goes-on-trial-accused.2579326.jp "Boyfriend goes on trial accused of murdering Jodi Jones"
  7. ^ http://news.scotsman.com/jodijonesmurder/Jodi-killers-defence-bill-costliest.2689831.jp "Jodi killer's defence bill costliest in Scots history"
  8. ^ http://news.scotsman.com/jodijonesmurder/The-clues-that-snared-a.2596853.jp "The clues that snared a murderer"
  9. ^ "Luke Mitchell v. Her Majesty's Advocate". Scotcourts.gov.uk. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  10. ^ "Appeal against Sentence". Scotcourts.gov.uk. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  11. ^ "Luke Mitchell Cadder ruling murder appeal rejected". Bbc.co.uk. 15 April 2011. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  12. ^ "Court rejects Mitchell appeal bid". Breakingnews.heraldscotland.com. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 24 November 2011. 
  13. ^ a b Samantha Poling (10 May 2007). ""Luke Mitchell: The Devil's Own?" Samantha Poling, ''BBC Frontline Scotland''". BBC News. Retrieved 18 December 2011. 
  14. ^ http://heraldscotland.com/mobile/news/crime-courts/luke-mitchell-in-new-bid-to-gain-freedom.18196698 "Luke Mitchell in new bid to gain freedom"
  15. ^ http://www.heraldscotland.com/mobile/news/crime-courts/police-breached-rights-of-mitchell-during-questioning-over-murder.24676905 "SCCRC refuse to refer Luke Mitchell case to Court of Appeal"
  16. ^ http://edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/human-rights-appeal-for-killer-luke-mitchell-1-3468258 "Human rights appeal for killer Luke Mitchell"

External links[edit]