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Letter to the Editor

Family Reacts to Not Guilty Verdict in Murder Trial

web posted November 12, 2013

Dear Editor,
The following is our thoughts on the case of the State vs John David Herndon for the stabbing death of Mark Meadows on Memorial Day 2012, where somehow John David Herndon was found not guilty. During the course of the trial there were several witnesses that were for and against both Mark Meadows and John David Herndon. However, let us focus on the physical evidence and testimony of the defendant that we see as pointing to the intentional murder of Mark Meadows at the hand of Mr. Herndon. But before we explore that lets look at a few events that happened in the courtroom. Starting with the some of evidence the prosecution was denied presenting the jury:

•         The use of John David Herndon’s personal documents, which according to others had some damaging statements about his thoughts on “wanting to kill someone”
•         The police finding 24 marijuana plants at his residence during a search of his house
•         That the defendant was on probation
•         An event where John David wielded a shotgun in a supposed attempt to force his then girl friend back to the house [in another incident prior to] the stabbing
•         His previous run ins with police
•         Testimony by others of these and additional information

Even with all of this withheld the blood and wound evidence told a different story from the reason given by the defendant John David Herndon. And in my opinion if you take out all of the witnesses against or for Mark’s and John David’s character the guilt could still be clearly seen but somehow it was overlooked. So why was it overlooked? Might it have been the judge’s work overload and that he wanted to be on time for a ball game? Was it his continual concern for the juror’s time and constant reminding the defense and prosecution about trying to get completed by Friday but stating that he doubted it? Might it also be because of that work load that he worked on other case documents during his time in court? Regardless of the reason, the jurors only took 1 hour to view the evidence and come to their conclusion Friday evening. 

Maybe it was the emphasis the judge put on the reasonable doubt of the “defendant,” leaving out the name of John David Herndon, but then placing the name of the victim Mark Meadows in his explanation of the law. Or maybe it was the defense employing every kind of physiological weapon during the trial. Such as dropping a clipboard right by the jury and saying “Oh Excuse Me!” just when the prosecution revealed the first photos of the victims three fatal stab wounds. 

Maybe it was the constant moving back and forth by the defense attorneys during the prosecutions line of questioning distracting jurors from listening to witnesses. It was possibly the short dress of one of the prosecutors revealing attire while at the top of the juror’s box during prosecutions cross examination. To be sure this caught the eye of the male jurors during witness’s testimony, which only served as another distraction from their duty. Or the facial disapproval and sighs of that defense attorney while close to the jurors during the solicitors questioning. Getting away with this even though the family of the victim was called down by the judge for nodding their heads to an answer one witness gave.  In that one instance the judge even threatened jail time so as to be careful not persuades a juror one way or the other.

Maybe it was the testimony of Mr. Herndon which gave such specifics as the type and precise size of the beer he purchased, how many cigarettes he smoked, right down to the color and style of the backpacks used to tote the alcohol. To be followed by him describing his actions in more detail than most can remember a day after an event much less 18 months later. In my opinion this clearly shows coaching and is simply a ploy attempting to display John David Herndon’s testimony as accurate and credible (another classic physiological manipulation). After this the defense attorney asked him to step down from the witness seat and demonstrate how he was supposedly defending himself against Mark Meadows. Crouching down the accused flawlessly took the rubber knife and acted out his rendition of the event. 

However, for some reason during cross examination John David stated he did not remember how his knife was held, he did not recollect his actions after being placed in the police cruiser, nor did he recall his actions in the jail cell. To top this off he subsequently refused to reenact anything for the prosecutor.

Whether from the inaccuracy of Mr. Herndon’s statement made to his neighbor that a man unknown to him tried to break into his house minutes after the stabbing, to the police video of Mr. Herndon crying out “He was trying to break into my House,” Mr. Herndon repeatedly contradicted the facts as they where laid out. Then during testimony Mr. Herndon changed his story.

He now was stating that Mr. Meadows had spent the day with him and out of no where Mr. Meadows attacked. From the statement that he had bruises from blows inflicted by the victim to the jail report which stated that he was beating his head against the walls of the jail cell the day before pictures where taken of his bruises. This being backed up by photo’s right after the crime to photos of the next day. To Mr. Herndon stating that the fight was by the front door to only be contradicted by the blood evidence on the side of the porch. Mr. Herndon’s version just did not add up. 

He gave testimony that he was stooped over protecting his head while thrusting the knife in a panicked un-aiming fashion to be contradicted by the downward wound in Mr. Meadows throat which implies that Mr. Herndon was in a standing position. Furthermore, the statements that he was just pushing his knife out, in that panicked state, while shielding his head, but somehow was able to make three precise central hits - one to Mr. Meadows throat, one to his heart, and one to his liver causing the death of the unarmed victim. The coroner added to these gruesome details when she stated that Mr. Meadows would have been unconscious in less than 60 seconds and dead within 2 minutes.

This could be perceived as ranting about how this was unfair to only have someone state life is unfair and victims have no rights only the criminals do. Stating furthermore, that we need to get over it and should get used to it. However, I used to hold the view that the court room was a level playing field. That even when you had a well paid lawyer if the majority of the evidence pointed against you, you would still be found guilty. That our country was founded on the self evident words that “All Men are Created Equal.”  That we had certain rights, chief of which is LIFE. 

Call me old fashioned, call me out of touch, but this was my view. Today that view is shattered. Ask yourself what if the victim was a high level officer, politician, prominent figure, or “anyone of importance?” Do you think the outcome would have been different? Would all those involved shown more respect and attention to their jobs? Would there have been more attention and honor paid to finding the truth rather than being concerned about being on time for a game or being required to come in an extra day? After all; this was someone’s life that was taken from them by a brutal stabbing. Regardless if they were a homeless man or prominent within the community they still deserve respect and justice.  It is what our country is founded on and the ideal we aspire to.

If there was a lack of physical evidence then this is unfounded. But as noted by experts and the opinions of the police this was a shocking verdict. 

Before I pictured judges and court staff concerned about justice and upholding their oaths of office in respect for both victims and the accused.  But now I see uninvolved and overworked court staff that was unable to give the attention to detail as needed.  I viewed us as law abiding citizens caring about our laws and being concerned when they are violated. Now I see United States citizens more engulfed with being out on time rather than making sure justice is met. Before I heard the testimony and viewed the evidence I held the view that Mark Meadows had just got into a fight with John David Herndon. Viewing Mr. Herndon as merely being a coward and using a knife against an unarmed man. But now I see something completely different. I see a man with evil forethought and cruel intent brutally killing his unsuspecting victim. I see a court system that is so flawed it is amazing that any criminal could be found guilty. I see citizens more concerned with getting the job done than the job done right. I see the aftermath of injustice.

In spite of this, justice is out there. There are those of us that do care and will stand up for the wrongs we encounter. The echoes of those that have shouted against injustices of times past still reverberate today. We beg of you to gain strength from their resolve as marble pillars reinforcing our founding ideals. While there will be no justice for Mark Meadows there may be for you or a loved one. Please do not make the mistakes we made in this trail. If you see any injustice take the Judge to the side, talk to your lawyers, study up and be prepared. Please speak your mind, stand up, and be heard. Don’t let those ideals slip silently by, be that voice that we were not and now so wish that we were.

Michael and Andrea Hutto,
Mark Meadow's Sister and brother in law

Editor's note: Due to the holiday, Edgefield Daily was unable to confirm that Herndon was on probation at the time of the shotgun incident.

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