Dru Sjodin’s Medical Examiner “Flaws” Lead To MN Prison Release
Minnesota officials have now vacated the murder conviction of Thomas Rhodes after he spent nearly 25 years in prison. In 1998, Thomas Rhodes was convicted of murder in the 1996 death of his wife Jane. He's free now due to the efforts of the newly formed Conviction Review Unit of the Minnesota Attorney General's office. AP News reports..
“With the benefit of a thorough review of all the evidence and circumstances, the CRU found that the medical evidence used in Mr. Rhodes’ conviction was flawed,”
The "flawed" medical evidence was introduced to the court by Dr. Michael McGee. The doctor's testimony claimed Thomas Rhodes had grabbed his wife by the neck, threw her from the boat they were in, and proceeded to run her over with the boat. The Conviction Review Unit examined the case and found her injuries were not inconsistent with being accidental. Rhodes had testified in court that his wife Jane had fallen overboard during a night-time boat ride.
The Great North Innocence Project, which worked with the Attorney General's Office, said in a news release that nine forensic pathologists reviewed the case and found that Jane Rhodes’ injuries were most likely caused by a blow to her head, possibly from falling out of the boat or from an unintentional hit by the boat as Rhodes searched the water.
As Rhodes had already served 25 years after being convicted in 1998 of both first and second-degree murder. Those charges were vacated and he plead guilty to second-degree manslaughter which carries a far less maximum sentence. The manslaughter charge stemmed from taking a small unstable boat out late at night with no lifejackets and the knowledge his wife could not swim.
Dr. McGee was also the Medical Examiner in the Dru Sjodin case.
In September 2021, Federal Judge Ralph Erickson threw out the death sentence for Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. who had been convicted in the 2003 slaying of Dru Sjodin who he had abducted from a Grand Forks, North Dakota mall parking lot. The judge found that McGee was "guessing" at the trial.
“Few trials are perfect. Admittedly, even fewer trials are riddled with error because expert testimony is later proven to be so unreliable that had all the circumstances been known it would have been inadmissible,”
Alfonso Rodriguez will likely never step foot out of prison but the heartbreaking case of the murder of Dru Sjodin will once again be back in a courtroom. He is expected to be resentenced and prosecutors will once again seek the death penalty.