Circumstantial Evidence is Just Not Enough Reason to Convict
At the end of her work day on April 18, 2008, science teacher Bethany Lorenz left the Putnam City North High School building and got into her car. Before she drove away, however, she noticed a woman approaching her car and trying to get her attention. When the woman approached her window she began asking Mrs. Lorenz questions about the cheerleading squad, a subject in which she was accustomed to conversing on being that she is the school’s varsity cheerleading sponsor. However, the conversation took a violent and unexpected turn when the woman suddenly asked her to look to the right and then attacked her with a stun gun to the neck.
A month after the attack, LeShawn Fisher came forward with a confession, and it didn’t take long for conspiracy theories to arise. When investigators began to seek out a motive, they determined that LeShawn’s only connection to Mrs. Lorenz was through her friend Julie Ann Bell, who had a daughter that was in her class and had also recently failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad at PC North. The prosecution had claimed that Bell had confided in her friend Fisher that the cheerleading coach and science teacher had picked on her daughter Jessica in science class and had cut her from the varsity team. Both of the women were in the school’s parking lot one evening for an extended period of time due to a slight scheduling irregularity, but neither of them ever got out of the car, and cell phone records show that they had been texting back and forth during this time. However when LeShawn Fisher testified, she asserted that she had acted alone.
Confusion grew in the courtroom when Julie Ann Bell’s daughter Jessica took the stand last Thursday, June 18, to testify against her mother. She claimed that she had reason to believe that her mother was involved. She stated that her mother had told her to deny knowing LeShawn Fisher to anyone that may ask and that she had also told her that the car in the parking lot wasn’t Fisher’s when Jessica got into her mom’s car and saw a car that looked just like hers in another row in the parking lot.
The trial continued the next day with emotions and accusations flying wildly throughout the day. When Bell’s attorney Tommy Adler stepped up to defend the assumptions made from the frequent back and forth text messaging between Bell and Lorenz on the day of the parking lot encounter, he says to the jury, “You know what this is evident of? Friendship.” He points out that Fisher and Bell were best friends at the time and always talked a lot. Without the content of these messages, the simple fact that they had been texting a lot was not incriminating evidence. “For conspiracy, it takes a meeting of two minds and neither of them was saying it was an agreement,” Adler later said. In his closing argument, he asserted that circumstantial evidence is just not enough reason to convict someone of being guilty beyond reasonable doubt. He argued that what happened here was that a friend thought another friend was being wronged, and took action in a way that physically harmed another person. “Bethany Lorenz did not deserve what happened to her,” Adler firmly declared, but he made sure the jury knew that Julie Ann Bell did not deserve to be condemned for committing a crime with no solid evidence to confirm her involvement. Because of his fortitude, Julie Ann Bell was found not guilty and is now able to begin piecing her life back together.