It was not my plan to do this case next. I ended up in a discussion with a friend over this case after the MacDonald case due to the many similarities in the case. The friend, who thinks of herself as a true crime buff herself had not heard of this case so that is when I decided this should be the next one. If you do not know this case, or even if you do, continue reading. This case has many twists and turns but in essence is a landmark case. Issues are in the courts now with no precedence go on, meaning there has been no case like it. This is a case that challenges you to ask yourself what is morally right and what is legally right.
1. On May 12, 1985 the bodies of Kathryn Eastburn and her daughters Erin (3) and Kara (5) were found in their home in Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
2. Twenty-two month old Janna Eastburn was left alive in her crib inside the home.
3. Three days later Army Sargent, Timothy B. Hennis was arrested for the murders.
4. Tim had answered a newspaper ad the Eastburn's placed for a dog two days before the murders.
5. Tim was convicted for the murders in state court in 1986 and is sentenced to death.
6. Tim appeals and receives a new trial in 1989. Tim is acquitted in his second trial and his discharge from the Army is listed as honorable.
7. Upon his acquittal, Tim re-enlisted in the Army and subsequently retired in 2004.
8. In 2006, the Army brought Tim out of retirement and back to North Carolina (he was now living in the Pacific Northwest of the country) based on the fact they now say they have DNA evidence linking Tim to the Eastburn case.
9. After over four years of arguments and many delays Tim was brought to trial and in April 2010 was once again convicted of the murders and sentenced to death.
1. Just like the Jeffrey MacDonald case, and most murder cases, the biggest dispute is of the guilt and innocence of the accused.
2. Tim stated in his first two trials that the only time he was in the home was when he visited concerning the dog. However, that story changed in the latest trial when it was presented that DNA of Tim's was found inside Kathryn Eastburn to say that Tim and Kathryn had been having an affair.
As with any case I could go on and on about the disputed facts. I just do not feel the need to do that here because in my opinion it simply does not matter so I will move on to my opinion.
The main issue of this case, in my opinion, is not about whether Timothy Hennis is guilty necessarily, but the issue of Double Jeopardy.
I could argue with you the issue of DNA in cases in which take so long to be tested and how those samples were preserved. I could tell you that I could take issue with investigators, or police....etc who have stated in old cases how they had hoped something like DNA testing would be available in the future and hence preserved them. To be honest, how does someone know what the future will bring and how to adequately preserve something? However, if I were to dismiss DNA in old cases that convict people, to be fair I would have to dismiss DNA that have found people innocent and released from jail, and, well I am just not ready to make that leap. When it comes to things like this you cannot pick and choose what is good and what is bad, you have to take it all as a whole. So, in this case, absent any indication of DNA contamination, I simply have to accept the results that were given in his last and final trial. Those results largely relied on the fact of a sexual assault and the finding of Tim's DNA inside Kathryn Eastburn. The other somewhat difference in this case is that DNA was coming to light in Tim's first two trials in 1986 and 1989 but was not yet accepted by the courts in North Carolina. So, since the idea was out there, it is possible
That being said I have to say I think he is guilty. What makes this case unique for me is that while I feel he is guilty, I do not believe he should be in jail. In fact, I do not believe his last trial should have even happened through his court martial based on the double jeopardy rule. Of course his lawyers were adamantly arguing this point, to which they still do. The law against double jeopardy prevents someone from being charged for a crime after being acquittal through a court. This means if in fact a guilty person is found not guilty through a court they can go out on the steps of the courthouse and state their guilt. One could also argue the definition given in the movie Double Jeopardy in which a woman is convicted of the murder of her husband, who in fact is not dead and had faked his death. In the movie a fellow inmates lets her know that after she has served her time she could murder the man in the middle of Times Square and she could not be charged... she had already served time for that charge. My position is that, while of course, there are generally situations in which this law prevents the guilty from being caught, it prevents witch hunts in which prosecutors or detectives are convinced someone is guilty and continually charge them until they get the result they want. Reality of it is however, it is the law.
Not only does my biggest issue on the fact that the military was allowed to charge him after and acquittal, I take issue with the fact that he was no longer technically a member of the military as he had retired two years prior to them bringing him in. I have seen reports that the courts dismissed the double jeopardy issue based on all but stating the military is a separate entity. When addressing the fact of his retirement, they have all but stated, not in so many words, once you are military, you are always military. Granted, Tim was an official member of the military when the crime occurred. However, the military did not charge him and conduct his first trial, the state of North Carolina did.
Do I condone murder and murderers? The absolute general answer would be no. This is the only case that I can think of off the top of my head that I can say I do think the accused is likely guilty but should not be in jail. I can think of another case (which I will blog about at a later time) in which I believe the accused is guilty, should have received jail time (in which she did), is not a case of self-defense but feel the victims asked for what they got. But, just as this case, it is the only case in which I feel this way. That is not to say that I have not disagreed in many cases on the amount of punishment given but as long as the law is followed, until laws are changed it "is what it is." In the Hennis case it has been reported that there has never been another case such as this. This means that no precedence has been set. Guilty or not, if this last conviction stands it means that members of our military face different laws and rules than the general public. We are telling people if they put their lives on the line for their country we will try you until we get you and that puts the innocent at a disadvantage. This case is not as much about Timothy Hennis as it is about future laws and rights of the people.