FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Fox 24) — A Washington County man, sentenced to 140 years in prison, will get a re-trial after new developments surface.
Back in March 2016, 57-year-old Chris Taffner was sentenced to nearly a century and a half of jail time after a court found him guilty of rape and sexual assault of three children. But documents, protected by law by the Department of Human Services, were never seen by the court.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Brian Lamb says these were important files intended to be reviewed by the judge before conviction.
“There’s something here that could have helped the defendant and his defense, and so by virtue of that decision, he was granted a new trial,” said Brian Lee Lamb, the Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, 4th Judicial District.
“The constitution says that the state has to give the criminally accused everything that’s favorable,” said Matt Kezhaya, Taffner’s defense attorney.
On Wednesday, Judge Mark Lindsey of the Washington county Circuit Court, ordered Taffner’s conviction to be vacated to give him a new, fair trial.
“It’s an oversight on my part, on the defense’s part, and the court’s part. We all bear responsibility,” Lamb said.
Beginning sometime next year, the courts will reassemble to start from scratch and once again put Taffner on trial.
“It was an oversight, a pretty costly oversight. We’re going to have to go through the time and expense of a new trial, we have to get these three children back here to testify again and go through the whole trial again,” Lamb said.
“You want to give the defense as much of a leg up as possible because we don’t want innocent people in jail,” Kezhaya said.
The exact date for the re-trial has not been set. But the Lamb says it should begin late spring or early summer.