The attempted murder case against Thomas James Mashburn, of Arkansas, was formally dismissed Thursday afternoon and he was freed from the Ward County Jail after 542 days. A jury trial was scheduled to begin Monday.
Mashburn had been accused of stabbing Jay Rasberry in the throat with a serated knife in the early morning hours of Sept. 5, 2011, in the parking lot of the Dakota Lounge, a bar in Minot.
The motion to dismiss was filed Thursday by Sean Kasson, the assistant state's attorney for Ward County who prosecuted the case. The motion cited "lack of evidence" "the interest of judicial economy" and, in a hand-written section of the motion, the "credibility of witnesses, tampering with evidence" which "came to light during trial preparation (and) provided inconsistent statements to this prosecutor" as reasons to dismiss the case.
"Justice deserved Mashburn to be released," Kasson said in an interview Friday. "We are satisfied that this was the right decision ... I think it was an all-supported decision ... that no citizens in Minot would be in jeopardy because of his release."
"It's an attempted murder charge. There's a lot that goes into that," Kasson said on why it has taken so long for the case to come to an end.
Court records list a huge amount of correspondence and motions going on outside the courtroom, as well as a change of representation for Mashburn from Robert Martin, of the North Dakota Public Defender's Office, to Kerry Rosenquist of the law firm Rosenquist & Arnason law firm with offices in both Grand Forks and Minot.
"We were very, very pleased in this office," Rosenquist said of the dismissal.
"The physical evidence at the scene did not jive with what was being told to us. For that reason we dug and dug and dug and the more we dug the more things didn't add up," Rosenquist said on why he believes the case was dismissed. "Mr. Kasson talked with one of the witnesses yesterday morning and as the result of that interview with a witness he believed the salient facts had been fabricated and that the witnesses there were incredible and their testimony couldn't be used. Even if it was used it would show that my client hadn't done anything."
"It's not very often that something like this happens. That someone is totally innocent and in the eleventh hour it's uncovered that somebody lied."
Martin declined to comment on the case, feeling that it would be "inappropriate" to do so on another attorney's case.
"A great injustice was done with Mr. Mashburn having to spend 542 days in jail," said a person close to Mashburn who wishes to remain anonymous in a email to this reporter.
That person was not the only one who felt so.
"It is believed that Mr. Mashburn was charged with the most severe charge due to the fact he is nonresident of North Dakota," alleged a petition posted to Change.org (http://chn.ge/15WRwMZ) by a Jessica Johnson-Mashburn, Ward, Ark. The petition gathered 281 signatures until it was discontinued by Johnson-Mashburn at the request of Mashburn's attorney.
"He says the ground work has been laid. Things are going in our favor and there is no need to continue," Johnson-Mashburn wrote in a comment asking people to stop signing and emailing the petition.
"Thomas Mashburn is my son," said one comment by a person purporting to be Doris Mashburn, Thomas Mashburn's mother. "He is a kind hearted person and I know in my heart he would never harm anyone (u)nless it was in self defense or protecting his family."
Kasson has said that whatever happens going forward, insofar as compensation for the time spent in jail goes, "that would be kind of up to that individual."
"We have to make sure before we go forward with the case that there was probable cause and there was probable cause in this case," Kasson said. "Just because someone is found not guilty or charges dismissed does not mean that they have been wrongfully detained."
Both Kasson and Rosenquist confirmed that Mashburn left on a flight to Arkansas early Friday morning to reunite with his family, a wife and four daughters.