It took a Dane County jury just three hours Wednesday to decide that Jonathan Love did not try to kill his longtime girlfriend, Carrie Hindes.
I wrote about Hindes' relationship with Love in a cover story last March. The couple had been together for 20 years and had three kids, but the true bind between them seemed to be a mutual attraction to drugs and alcohol. And, according to Hindes, Love was a violent man who physically and emotionally abused her. He was convicted of battery for an incident in late 2004.
In May 2006, police were called to the Expo Inn on Madison's south side, where they found Hindes with a knife wound to her neck and Love being restrained by a hotel employee. At first glance, and even a second, it appeared obvious what happened: Love had stabbed her.
But two Dane County juries were not convinced. The first trial, in November, ended in a hung jury, 10-2 in favor of conviction. This week, the jury quickly sided with Love. After sitting through much of the two-day trial, I think I understand how he got off, though I may never understand why.
Part of the problem was that Hindes was not convincing on the stand. Although she sobbed through most of her testimony, it was clear she had lied about a few things. She tried to pretend that her romantic relationship with her new boyfriend did not begin until after the attack. That hurt her credibility with the jury.
Love's defense attorney, Jon Helland, did a masterful job of blaming Hindes. He argued that she was a liar, noting that she had 11 convictions (mostly for drugs and shoplifting) and liked to tell outlandish stories. At one point, he called her belief that she might someday see her children again as "one of the delusions of Carrie.' (All three kids were put in foster care and eventually adopted.)
During Love's testimony, Helland asked if Hindes had difficulty controlling her emotions. Love replied, "Oh yeah. She's on medication."
When Hindes was on the stand, Helland brought up her children, noting they'd been taken away by social services. The implication being, of course, that Hindes was a bad mother. No one ever questioned Love's parenting.
Perhaps the trial's most absurd moment was when Love described for the jury how Hindes was stabbed. He said she invited him to her motel room at the Expo. They got into an argument. She slapped him first, knocking his glasses off. Then, he claimed, Love grabbed his hand and dislocated two of his fingers. When he fell to his knees in pain, Hindes pulled out a chunk of his hair. Love says he hit Hindes to get away from her. She fell and as they struggled, she grabbed for the knife.
She stabbed herself, he said.
And the jury believed him. Even though they saw the crime scene photos that showed Hindes after the fight -- with abrasions on her nose, bruises up her arms and a purple, swollen eye. Even though Hindes was the one who ended up needing surgery and spent a week in the hospital. Even though Love, despite Hindes' allegedly vicious attack on him, did not require any medical care.
The jury learned that Love had five criminal convictions, but no details were given. No one brought up that he'd been convicted of battery for an incident in late 2004 in which he hit Carrie and destroyed the rental house the couple was then living in. Hindes' past transgressions, in contrast, were explored in depth.
And that's how Jonathan Love was acquitted of attempted murder. Though I still can't explain why.