Sunday, November 15, 2009

Every Day is a Gift

Even though this case doesn't fall into the usual category of cases we follow, CourtWatch was sufficiently appalled after John Hill Hawthorne, age 19, (pictured here) was released on home confinement by Judge John Adams soon after his arrest. Hawthorne is accused in the July murder that involved over a dozen pocket-knife stab wounds in the back of Joel Boner, a homeless man who allegedly flirted with the defendant. Hawthorne had reportedly been drinking all night before coming upon Boner's camp near his parents' 20-acre property in Ocoee.

Click here to see the earlier post.

Mr. Hawthorne was in court Friday before Chief Judge Belvin Perry, who took the case after Judge Adam's earlier ruling. Hawthorne was requesting the opportunity to go outside his parents' home in order to "get some sun" and help cultivate the acreage into a hay farm.

When Hawthorne's father, Milton Claude Hawthorne testified, he couldn't seem to remember whether or not the family was going to clear the old, overgrown orange grove in order to plant hay or sod. When he finally seemed to recollect that they were growing hay, he was sketchy about what that entailed. He mentioned that they had been trying to get it established since last December. He testified that having John do the work would give him the opportunity to earn some money as well. The elder Hawthorne was also evasive when Judge Perry asked who had mowed the grass around the home prior to the incident, claiming that he, John, and his wife took turns doing it. His son was a much better witness on the stand than he was.

Assistant State Attorney Ken Lewis presented Detective Inizzuzi, who testified that there was no visible evidence of any cultivation work being done. She also testified that Cameron Milner, eyewitness to the murder, had lived with the Hawthorne family earlier in the year, and had no knowledge of his friend having responsibility for chores of any kind.

Mr. Lewis effectively painted a picture of a young defendant who has accomplished nothing of value in his life - having been expelled from school, was unemployed, and was drinking alcohol while driving an ATV on his family's property that fateful night. The victim's family was represented by his uncle, Lon Boner, who found it extremely objectionable that Hawthorne might be permitted to come within a few yards of the murder site. He also testified that the family did not know about the bond hearing earlier, or else he would have attended (he is the closest family member and lives in Georgia).

In his final argument, Defense Counsel Charles Willetts asserted that even inmates at the jail get to go outside for sun. He claimed that his client was merely defending himself (something I find hard to believe given the fact that Mr. Boner had over a dozen stab wounds in his back), and that Hawthorne's request is a reasonable one.

In his final argument, Assistant State Attorney Ken Lewis must have read my mind when he offered that the State would have no problem with Mr. Hawthorne serving the rest of his pretrial release at the jail. He emphatically reminded the defendant that every day of the past 3+ months that he's been on home confinement have been a gift. After all, the victim can't have any modification of his situation.

The ruling?

Judge Perry ruled that Hawthorne could have 1 hour a day (the same as inmates at the jail) outdoors. He is to be limited to a radius of 50 yards from the home and must schedule his hour with the home confinement officer. 

We can only hope the defendant's parents give him some chores to do.


  1. From the looks of him and after hearing him stumble over evry answer on the stand, I would say Milton may need John to give him a hand getting the top off of his next bottle of whiskey.
    Johnny & Cammy had bunk beds. Surely they both had to make their beds.

    Still flabbergasted at this whole thing. Add this to the flabbergastation.
    EXCELLENT reporting, Laura.

  2. Thank you Laura for your commitment and excellence in what you do!


  3. Yes Laura we were glad to see you there, this is no ordinary case, great reporting.

  4. Please tak a look at the open letters Joel's father wrote to both Cameron Milner and John Hawthorne on the updated Justice for Joel Boner website:

    And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
    Matthew 25:40