Jury Finds Lopez Not Guilty In Stabbing
MAYVILLE — Ashleyanne Lopez-Lopez, 26 was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter as well as the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide Friday afternoon.
The panel of 12 jurors, eight women and four men, ruled “not guilty” with factors including causation and justification playing the deciding role of the fatal stabbing of 15-year old Jefrena Brown that happened May 15 of last year in the city of Dunkirk. Causation, according to legal definition, is the relationship of cause and effect of an act or omission and damages alleged in a tort or personal injury action.
Justification claims the defendant did no wrong, because committing the crime advanced some social interest or vindicated a right of such importance that it outweighs the wrongfulness of the crime. Basically what couldn’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt might have been that Lopez didn’t intend to stab Brown as the knife could have accidentally been manipulated by events that transpired in the heat of the moment.
“None of this takes anything away from the Brown family’s loss and they and Jefrena were front and center in all of our minds at all times,” defense attorney Jason Schmidt said following the verdict. “It’s just a tragedy. There’s nothing we can say that will change that.”
Schmidt went on to say that he believed in Lopez’s innocence from the very beginning. “I knew that the video evidence was going to exonerate her,” he added. “For us it was really about causation — did she actually cause the death of Jefrena — and for us when you go frame by frame and watch what happened, you can’t say that she caused the death. This was just a horrible situation.”
Schmidt couldn’t say whether the jurors ruled on causation or justification, but agreed that there were two areas they could have looked at here closely and determined that the people did not make their burden of proof. Schmidt also took the time to thank local attorney Danielle Erickson stating that much of what he did was due to her diligence. “She just worked behind the scene tirelessly. She was focused on this case and I could not have done this without her assistance.”
“The jury I’m sure struggled with this — this was a difficult case,” District Attorney Patrick Swanson shared after the ruling as well. “We have our job to do. We put our case forward and the process lays out very clearly for the jurors what to consider and they were thorough.”
Swanson cited the many times the legal definitions were explained to the jury as well as the two times they asked to view the video evidence, one time was even frame by frame.
“They spent a good amount of time. They asked a number of questions that were relevant,” Swanson added. “It’s a process that as a district attorney, you have to deal with; you don’t pick your cases and we knew when this case originated, it would be a difficult case. The video evidence is tough to digest.”
Swanson also stated that the office put forth their best effort but that the jury process is there for a reason in this country and he respects that process.