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Shaffer Walks Out a Free Man. DA Won’t Pursue Another Trial

(Re-printed with permission from the SUN HERALD)

Friday, May 12, 2000

Section: LOCAL-FRONT

Edition: TSH

Page: A3

BY TODD TWILLEY

Caption: JAMES EDWARD BATES/THE SUN HERALD

 

Justin David Shaffer is embraced by his mother, Dorothy Shaffer, following his

release from the Jackson County Adult Detention Center on Thursday afternoon.

Shaffer was convicted in 1992 for killing Rachel Marshall of Ocean Springs, but the

state Supreme Court threw out the conviction last year. After the District Attorney's

Office decided not to go forward with another trial at the request of the victim's

family, Circuit Court Judge Kathy Jackson signed papers Thursday releasing Shaffer.

 

 

PASCAGOULA --- Justin David Shaffer lifted his arms to the side, glanced to the

sky and said, "Ah, fresh air," as he took his first steps as a free man in over nine

years Thursday.

 

Shaffer was convicted in 1992 for killing Rachel Marshall of Ocean Springs, but the

state Supreme Court threw out the conviction last year. After the District Attorney's

Office decided at the request of the victim's family not to go forward with another

trial, Circuit Court Judge Kathy Jackson signed papers Thursday releasing Shaffer.

 

Shaffer's mother brought him new clothes, and his attorney loaned him his electric

razor before he walked out of the county jail. And Shaffer was eager to leave for his

parents' farm in Neely, which is west Leakesville.

 

"It's just been a long time --- and I just want to get on with my life with my family,"

he said. "And I know I'll never get back the time that I've lost, but I'm going to try to

do good with the time I have coming."

 

As to whether the experience has made him lose faith in the criminal justice system,

he said, "Yes and no. I was fortunate that I have lawyers like Mr. (Tim) Holleman

right now."

 

Holleman praised District Attorney Keith Miller's decision.

 

"The easy thing in this case would have been to set up the trial again, and let the jury

decide it," Holleman said. "The harder decision for a prosecutor to make is to

dismiss a case when the evidence warrants its dismissal."

 

"There are two tragedies that occurred here. One was the death of Rachel Marshall.

And one was the imprisonment of Justin David Shaffer. We have a system of justice,

and it's not perfect. It's based on human beings, and it's based on mistakes."

 

Shaffer has claimed since he was first arrested that he did not kill Marshall. And

when offered to be freed over a month ago if he entered a guilty plea for

manslaughter, Shaffer refused, telling his lawyer he could not plead guilty to

something he didn't do.

 

Marshall was found face down in her bathtub with the water running in 1991. Shaffer

testified during his trial to having sex with her the night before her body was found.

 

But when the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction, they questioned

whether a crime had even been committed against Marshall.

 

Prosecutors said they dismissed the case because Marshall's family members did not

want to go through another trial. But in court papers, they also claimed there was a

"lack of evidence" and "conflicting evidence."

 

The ruling to dismiss the case came with resistance from Judge Jackson and law

enforcement officers who attended previous hearings. But Jackson wrote in her

ruling Thursday that her decision was based solely on Miller's recommendation.