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Mark Leckington

Other Iowa Exonerations
On December 28, 2003, Shawn Y. and Travis T. spent the night at the home of Shawn’s mother, Sandra Leckington, in Davenport, Iowa. The next day, after lunch, the boys said they were going out to ride their bikes and ended up at the apartment of Dominic Major, who was a friend of Leckington’s 18-year-old son, Curtis Jenkins.

Just after 2 p.m., Major called Sandra Leckington and said she needed to come pick up the boys. He said Travis, who was 13 years old, had drunk a bunch of vodka and was “pretty trashed.”

Leckington first stopped at a convenience store to pick up her husband, 38-year-old Mark Leckington. At the apartment, Travis was having difficulty walking and fell down. Major carried Travis to the car, where he was placed in the back seat, slumped over. Mark Leckington asked whether Travis had been drinking. His wife said no. Mark Leckington then asked Shawn what was wrong. The boy answered that Travis had hit his head while they were wrestling.

After arriving at the Leckingtons’ house, the boys went inside. Mark and Sandra Leckington then left to run some errands. An hour later, they returned. One of the other children in the house told Sandra that Travis was “dead” in the bathtub. He was unconscious, his mouth clenched shut.

According to later testimony, Sandra Leckington initially resisted seeking help, worrying instead about what might happen to her. She asked her husband what to do. He said to call Travis’s mother, who told Sandra Leckington to call 911. Paramedics arrived and took Travis to a local hospital. A helicopter then flew Travis to a larger hospital in Iowa City. He regained consciousness after 14 hours.

The state charged Mark and Sandra Leckington with child endangerment resulting in serious injury and neglect or abandonment of a dependent person. Sandra Leckington was also charged with providing alcohol to a minor resulting in serious injury. (On December 17, 2003, she had bought Jenkins vodka that officials said made its way to Major’s apartment.)

Mark and Sandra Leckington went to trial together in Scott County District Court on July 26, 2004. A doctor testified that Travis’s blood-alcohol content measured .3 when he reached the hospital, a level that placed him at risk of death.

The state also presented evidence that Sandra Leckington first tried to get others to help move Travis out of the house rather than call for an ambulance. Several witnesses testified that the boy was clearly inebriated, but the Leckingtons and two of their children testified that Travis appeared to be fine on the short drive from Major’s apartment to their home. In addition, the bottle of vodka found at the apartment was not the brand purchased by Sandra Leckington.

On July 29, 2004, the jury convicted both Mark and Sandra Leckington of all the charges. On August 26, 2004, Mark Leckington received two consecutive 10-year sentences; his wife received two consecutive 10-year sentences and an additional year for the conviction of providing alcohol to a minor. Jenkins pled guilty on March 8, 2004 to misdemeanor possession of alcohol by a minor and received a sentence of 15 days in jail.

Also on August 26, 2004, Mark Leckington pled guilty to two unrelated theft charges and received a sentence of two years in prison.

The Leckingtons appealed their neglect convictions on the basis of insufficient evidence, arguing that Travis was never in their custody and they were unaware of how much alcohol he had consumed. A lower court affirmed the convictions.

On April 28, 2006, the Iowa Supreme Court vacated Mark Leckington’s conviction, remanding the case to Scott County for a judgment of acquittal, which was entered on May 23, 2006. Leckington was then released from prison. In a separate opinion, the court affirmed Sandra Leckington’s conviction.

The court said Mark Leckington never had custody or control of Travis, noting that he was in another part of the house when his wife found the boy unconscious and didn’t know there was a problem until she asked him what to do. “Mark’s role in this situation was peripheral. He did not decide to pick up the boys; he did not decide where to leave the boys. At best he acquiesced in his wife’s decision to leave the boys at the Leckington home.”

That said, the court scolded Leckington for his behavior, stating: “Our decision does not condone Mark Leckington’s behavior. The level of indifference he displayed towards the health and welfare of a child was appalling, but his actions (or inaction) did not rise to the level of criminal liability.”

In February 2008, Leckington petitioned the court to be declared a wrongfully imprisoned person, which would allow him to seek state compensation.

On May 16, 2008, Judge Nancy Tabor ruled that Leckington had been wrongfully imprisoned for the period between June 14, 2005, when his theft sentence ended, and May 23, 2006, when the judgment of acquittal was entered.

Judge Tabor wrote that Leckington had proven by “clear and convincing evidence that he did not commit the offense charged.” He was later awarded $19,875 in compensation and nearly $10,000 for legal fees.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 11/7/2022
Last Updated: 11/7/2022
Most Serious Crime:Other Nonviolent Felony
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2003
Sentence:20 years
Age at the date of reported crime:38
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No