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Lewis Hagan

Other New Jersey Cases Where No Crime Was Committed
https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/PublishingImages/Middlesex_County_NJ.JPG
In October 2003, 38-year-old Lewis Hagan notified school officials in Middlesex County, New Jersey that his girlfriend was physically abusing her 13-year-old daughter. The principal, as required, notified the Division of Youth and Family Services of Hagan’s allegation of physical abuse, triggering an investigation.

A month later, on November 17, 2003, Hagan obtained a temporary domestic violence restraining order against the girl’s mother, F.B. In response, F.B. obtained a similar restraining order against Hagan, claiming he had made terrorist threats and burglarized her home.

On December 4, 2003, the girl’s mother called police and said that D.B. claimed that Hagan had propositioned her sexually and touched her inappropriately on her thigh a month earlier. The police questioned Hagan and arrested him on charges of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

Hagan was convicted of both charges on December 10, 2004 in Middlesex County Superior Court. During the trial, D.B. testified that Hagan had fondled her inner thigh and propositioned her. F.B. testified that she reported the incident to police when her daughter revealed it.

Hagan testified and denied touching or propositioning D.B. He testified that his relationship with the girl’s mother was deteriorating at that time, but his attorney presented no evidence that Hagan had reported F.B. for physically abusing D.B. or that child the welfare authorities had investigated.

Hagan was sentenced to four years in prison. His appeals were denied.

Released from prison in February 2007, Hagan filed a post-conviction petition in November 2007 seeking a new trial. He argued that his public defender, Robert White, had provided an inadequate legal defense.

At a hearing before Middlesex County Superior Court Judge James Mulvihill, Hagan testified that White failed to introduce evidence that the girl and her mother were lying. In particular, White offered no evidence that Hagan had reported F.B. for physically abusing the girl—prompting an investigation by child welfare services—or any evidence about the restraining orders. He also failed to call a witness, Derrick Williams, whom Hagan said had heard F.B. brag that she had set up Hagan and that the allegations were false.

White testified that he chose not bring up the restraining orders because he believed it would allow the prosecution to introduce evidence that F.B. had accused Hagan of making a terrorist threat and burglarizing her home—even though those charges were dismissed.

White said he tried to contact Williams, who was in jail at the time, but that Williams’s lawyer would not consent to an interview.

Finally, White said he believed it was not necessary to bring up the referral to child welfare authorities because D.B.’s credibility was so weak. He said that instead, he attacked the girl’s credibility and attempted to portray Hagan as having had a good relationship with the girl and her mother, but that Hagan took the witness stand against his advice.

In 2008, Judge Mulvihill vacated Hagen’s convictions and ordered a new trial. Judge Mulvihill ruled that White had provided an inadequate legal defense and that he should have introduced the abuse report and Hagan’s restraining order against F.B. The judge also ruled that White failed to take adequate steps to obtain the testimony of Derrick Williams. In August 2009, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court upheld the decision, ruling that Judge Mulvihill’s findings were based on “substantial credible evidence.”

The case was scheduled for a retrial on March 16, 2010. The prosecution asked that the charges be dismissed, but Hagan’s lawyer demanded a retrial by the judge hearing the case without a jury. The judge granted that request. The prosecution presented no witnesses, and the judge entered an order of acquittal.

Hagan later filed a legal malpractice lawsuit against the New Jersey Office of the Pubic Defender. The lawsuit was settled for $400,000 plus $75,000 in legal fees. Hagan was also awarded $75,000 in compensation by the state of New Jersey.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 11/12/2016
State:New Jersey
County:Middlesex
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:Child Abuse
Reported Crime Date:2003
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2010
Sentence:4 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:38
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No