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John Holsomback

Other Alabama Cases
In August 1987, 33-year-old John Holsomback was arrested in Shelby County, Alabama after his nine-year-old son, Jeffrey, accused his father of sodomizing him every week for nearly five years.

Holsomback was charged with first-degree sodomy and went to trial in Shelby County District Court in April 1988.

The prosecution’s case consisted entirely of Jeffrey’s testimony. The boy, who was then 10 years old, told the jury that from the time of his parents’ divorce in 1982, when he was four years old, until August 1987, his father had regularly subjected him to anal intercourse during their biweekly weekend visitations.

Jeffrey also testified that his father had assaulted him on other occasions, once putting an unloaded gun to his neck and pulling the trigger, twice subjecting him to oral sex, and more than once forcing him to have anal intercourse with another man.

Jeffrey was examined by a doctor for signs of sexual abuse approximately 12 days after telling his mother about the sodomy, but the physician could find no evidence to support the boy’s allegations. The prosecutor had advised Holsomback's attorney prior to trial that there was no medical evidence of sexual abuse.

Holsomback testified in his own defense and denied abusing the boy sexually or physically. The defense also called six other witnesses: Holsomback’s mother, his sister, his brother, his niece, and two pastors of churches Holsomback attended.

Holsomback’s mother testified that the relationship between Holsomback and his ex-wife was hostile. Holsomback’s mother also testified that Jeffrey visited her regularly and that she had seen neither physical evidence of abuse while bathing Jeffrey nor any changes in his attitude toward his father over the years.

Holsomback’s sister and brother testified that they had let their sons stay overnight with Holsomback in the past, and would do so in the future. Holsomback’s niece described a telephone conversation between Jeffrey, his mother and his maternal grandmother in which Jeffrey denied that anyone in his father’s family had tried to “do anything” to him during a scheduled visitation one Christmas.

The two pastors testified that Holsomback’s reputation in the community for truth and veracity was good.

Holsomback’s attorney presented no medical testimony or other evidence concerning the lack of corroborating physical evidence. The only reference by the defense about the lack of medical evidence was a statement in his closing argument that “you as sensible people know that the reason the doctor wasn’t here was because there was no evidence [Jeffrey had] ever been touched or molested or abused.”

On April 5, 1988, the jury convicted Holsomback of first-degree sodomy. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Holsomback’s conviction and sentence were upheld on appeal. He also filed a post-conviction motion seeking a new trial claiming that he had received a constitutionally unfair trial because his defense attorney failed to consult with a medical expert or the Holsomback family physician.

During a hearing on the motion, Dr. Thomas Nolen, who was qualified as an expert in family medicine, testified that both Holsomback and Jeffrey had been patients of his—Holsomback since the inception of Nolen’s practice 18 years earlier and Jeffrey since the age of one or two.

Nolen testified that since then, he examined Jeffrey approximately two to three times a year and never saw any signs of sexual abuse, nor did Jeffrey exhibit the behavior patterns of a child who had been sodomized. Nolen also said that Holsomback did not exhibit the characteristics of a pedophile.

Based on his review of both the medical report prepared by the physician who examined the boy at the time of his initial allegation and the transcript of Jeffrey’s trial testimony, Nolen concluded that Jeffrey’s account of the sexual abuse was medically impossible. Nolen testified that certain physical evidence of trauma to the anal area would be apparent to a doctor performing a rectal examination on a child who had been sodomized once within the previous ten days to two weeks or four times within the previous year.

However, Holsomback’s petition for a new trial was denied and his appeal of the ruling also was denied.

In 1994, Holsomback filed a federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus claiming he received a constitutionally unfair trial because of his trial lawyer’s failure to present evidence that no abuse occurred. The petition was denied, but in 1998, the Eleventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed that decision and vacated Holsomback’s conviction.

The appeals court held: “In light of Dr. Nolen’s testimony… we are persuaded that, under the specific circumstances of this case, Holsomback’s defense was sufficiently prejudiced by his attorney’s failure to conduct an adequate pre-trial investigation that our confidence in the trial outcome is undermined.”

Holsomback was released on bond in April 1998. In June 2000, the prosecution dismissed the charge.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/30/2015
State:Alabama
County:Shelby
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1987
Convicted:1988
Exonerated:2000
Sentence:25 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:33
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No