NO EVIDENCE, NO JURY, NO JUSTICE
THE WRONGFUL CONVICTION OF JEREMY BARNEY
Early in 2004, in bucolic Litchfield County, Connecticut, seventeen-year-old Jeremy Barney was arraigned on charges that he had beaten, raped, sodomized, and tortured the three children of a neighborhood family.
Aside from the statements of the accusing family, however, no evidence indicated that Jeremy committed the horrors alleged. In fact, no evidence indicated that these events had ever occurred. Despite allegations of dozens of rapes in every room the children’s home, police recovered no DNA or trace evidence from the crime scene. According to the State’s own forensic medical exams, the children evinced no injuries consistent with the claims of years of violence. None of the children evinced broken bones, lacerations, or bruises. The eight-year-old girl’s hymen was still intact. [1A]
Later evidence showed the parents of the alleged victims were attempting to cover up ongoing incest in their home. Not only did the parents lie in their affidavits to police, they also both fabricated and destroyed evidence during the course of the investigation.
Even after the prosecution realized they had been lied to and manipulated, however, they pushed forward with their wrongful case, choosing to save their reputations rather than the futures of the teens and children involved.
On 10 June 2005, the court proceedings lasted roughly an hour, presided over by a judge who would later leave his post in scandal. Jeremy’s family looked on, powerless, as the teen was sentenced to maximum-security prison for twenty years.
In the Spring of 2016, the Connecticut Innocence Project took Jeremy’s case. A true-crime novel about the case, Angela’s Story, is forthcoming from Tarpaulin Sky Press.
BACKGROUND: “FAMILY _X_”
By Autumn of 2003, in the tiny town of Sharon, Connecticut, the home of Family _X_ had become a hotbed of incest and underage sex.
Jeff _X_, then 43 and a project manager for an architectural firm, and Julie _X_, then 41 and a volunteer “After-School Enrichment Director” for Sharon’s elementary school, were desperate to keep a secret from their neighbors: at least five kids had been having sexual relations in their home — specifically in the master bedroom, while using Jeff’s and Julie’s sex toys and pornography.[1A2]
Three of the children were Jeff’s and Julie’s own: two boys, Carson and Jesse, ages 13 and 7 respectively, and Angela, their 8-year-old sister, whom Carson was regularly molesting.[1B]
Neighborhood children included Lily, age 8 — for whom Carson babysat, and with whom Angela also regularly engaged in sexual activities — and Jeremy Barney, with whom Carson had intercourse on a number of occasions.[1C]
And in the Fall of 2003, Angela, unaware that anything was different about her home, started talking about her big brother’s molestations.[1D]
Jeff and Julie were well aware of the consequences if CT authorities — the Department of Child and Families (DCF) and the State Police — were to learn what was transpiring in their bedroom. Julie had volunteered at a sexual-abuse crisis center.[1E] As will be discussed shortly, she also had experiencing in using social services to lodge false allegations against other families.
For Jeff and Julie to save themselves from investigation, they needed to take action, and they needed to do it quickly.
Lily’s guardians weren’t likely to cause a problem. They wanted nothing to do with the authorities. [1F] Jeremy’s mother, however, Megan Barney, could pose a problem. Some years earlier Julie had lodged a false child-abuse report against Megan, and then watched silently as social services tore Megan’s family apart. Although the investigation eventually concluded, correctly, that the abuse allegations were unfounded, the emotional and psychological damage to Megan — sobbing as social services took a child from her arms — had left her more than a little wary of Julie. [1F2]
Because Jeremy was older than Carson, however, Julie and Jeff could gamble that Megan would not want authorities to know about the boys’ sex, despite it being consensual. So, on October 19, 2003, Julie drove to Megan’s home to inform her of Carson’s and Jeremy’s activities, and to take control of the situation.
According to documents from social services, when Megan and Julie confronted Jeremy — who until that time had kept his homosexuality a secret from family and friends — he told the two mothers that he was “sorry” for having sex with Carson, and was “glad” they’d found out.[1G]
By her own admission, Julie expressed her hope that the two families could “keep this from public exposure,” and was under the impression Megan had “agreed this was OK.”[1H]
Megan, however, thought better of it. Not only was she already keenly aware of Julie’s propensity for deception and malice, but Megan also had licenses for both foster care and day care. Megan stood to lose it all, and she believed that she was mandated to make a report to the State.
As Julie watched in shock, Megan picked up the phone and called a regional hotline — automatically triggering an investigation by social services and police.
TIME TO PANIC
Now possibly facing charges of child neglect and endangerment, Jeff and Julie _X_ needed to redirect authorities’ attention away from the incest and other underage sex taking place in their home. So they hatched an unconscionable plan. They would tell authorities that Megan’s son had been violently raping, sodomizing, and torturing all three of their children for years on end. They would lodge allegations so horrific that authorities would quickly forget the factual incest and instead pursue a fictional monster.
Aided by a prosecutor who would engage in any misconduct necessary to win, and investigators whose good intentions were far outweighed by their incompetence, Jeff’s and Julie’s plan would work like magic. They would successfully send 17-year-old Jeremy Barney to prison for a term longer than he’d been alive, while authorities would force the _X_ children to go on living with their criminal parents in an incestuous home.
In interviews with police and social services, Jeff and Julie alleged that Jeremy subjected their children to battery, assaults with weapons, rapes, and various sexual tortures — in addition to raping the family pets — for a period of anywhere from eighteen months to four years, while employed as a babysitter.[1I] Following their parents’ lead, the _X_ children described dozens of bizarre and horrific attacks: the cat and dog were raped with Julie’s dildo; the boys were routinely battered and sodomized; and Angela was raped, sodomized, beaten with a baseball bat, and violently penetrated with Julie’s dildo as well as a wine bottle — in addition to being stabbed on multiple occasions in the hand and chest and having her vagina slashed at different times with a knife and a shard of glass.
Although these extraordinarily violent crimes, had they been real, would have left the children battered and bloody, if not unconscious or dead — and although these attacks were alleged to have occurred during the brief hours when Jeremy babysat — Jeff and Julie told investigators they had noticed nothing wrong with their children (or their pets) upon returning home just a few hours later.
According to Jeff and Julie, the children had miraculously managed to cover up their injuries for years, and had stayed silent about the abuses for fear that Jeremy would hurt Jeff and Julie if the children told. (Unsurprisingly, school teachers and friends in the small town of Sharon had also noticed nothing wrong with the children during the time of these alleged crimes.)
Despite the brutal physicality and long-term duration of the alleged crimes, investigators possessed no physical evidence to corroborate the allegations made by Family _X_. Not only did investigators find no evidence implicating Jeremy as the perpetrator, they found no evidence that these crimes had even occurred.
According to the State’s forensic medical exams, the children evinced no injuries that were consistent with the _X_ family’s claims. Despite allegations of dozens of rapes in every room of the _X_ home, police recovered no DNA or trace evidence from the crime scene: no semen; not so much as a single pubic hair.
In fact, aside from the uncorroborated statements of Family _X_, investigators possessed only exculpatory evidence — i.e., evidence of Jeremy’s innocence. In brief:
- The State’s forensic medical exam showed that Angela still retained her hymen, proving that she was never raped.
- According to all three of the State’s forensic medicals exams, none of the _X_ children exhibited any injuries consistent with the family’s claims of years of violent physical assaults. The children evinced no current or healed broken bones, no lacerations, and no bruising.
- According to Carson’s forensic medicals exam, Carson’s anal and rectal injuries increased in number and severity after his last contact with Jeremy. Given that Angela’s and Jesse’s anal and rectal injuries are described by the medical examiner in precisely the same terms as Carson’s, and given that all three of the children were kept home from school during this time, with access only to each other and their parents, these medical findings beg the question: who in the _X_ family injured all three of the children.
- Police and social services interviewed over 70 other children who had contact with Jeremy via his mother’s daycare and foster care, all of whom had only kind words to say about Jeremy.
ARREST & CONVICTION
Although he was a minor with no criminal record, Jeremy was encouraged by detectives to waive his rights, and was interrogated and polygraphed over the course of days without the presence of his family or his attorney. Jeremy allegedly “indicated deception” on one polygraph question alone, out of the dozens he’d been asked, but detectives nonetheless told him that had failed the examination. [1J]
Jeremy admitted to detectives that he and Carson had consensual sex on multiple occasions, although they knew that sex between teenagers is a crime in Connecticut. Jeremy denied that he had forcibly raped Carson, and denied ever sexually assaulting Angela or Jesse.
Jeremy spent 1.5 years in jail in Bridgeport, CT, awaiting trial. His working-class family was unable to afford either the $1 million bond on which he was originally held, or the later-reduced bond of $600,000.
In June 2005, based solely on the outlandish and uncorroborated claims of Family _X_, Jeremy was convicted on six felony counts: three counts of first-degree sexual assault, including the use of force, and three counts of injury and risk of injury to minors.
He was sentenced to twenty years in maximum-security prison.
For the statutory crime to which he had admitted — engaging in consensual sex with Carson — Jeremy was never charged.
Trial Judge Brunetti would later “retire,” following his involvement in a bribery scandal in which he admitted to leaking grand jury information. [1K]
REOPENING THE CASE FILES
Today Jeremy Barney is represented by the CT Innocence Project Post-Conviction Unit. Prior to their involvement, the case files were secured by the Barney family and reexamined by independent researchers including pro-bono attorneys, private investigators, a forensic criminal profiler, and an author whose true-crime novel about the case, Angela’s Story, is forthcoming. What these investigations have revealed is not only proof, beyond doubt, that Jeremy Barney was wrongfully convicted, but also proof of criminal wrongdoing by Jeff and Julie _X_ , and proof of prosecutorial misconduct by the Office of the State’s Attorney.
This website exists to make public these findings, which are discussed in detail in the pages that follow, and may be briefly summarized as follows:
- Jeff and Julie lied to social services and perjured themselves in police affidavits throughout the investigation; coached their children to imagine horrific sexual crimes and to present them to authorities as the truth; and both fabricated physical evidence and destroyed physical evidence; all of which was perpetrated with the twin motives of 1) covering up incest and other child sex in their home — activities that might otherwise have resulted in Jeff and Julie being investigated for child neglect and endangerment, among other possible charges — and 2) directing authorities’ attention instead to Jeremy Barney, against whom Jeff and Julie lodged dozens of false felony allegations.
- The prosecution, led by Senior Assistant State’s Attorney James Fletcher, withheld multiple items of exculpatory evidence from the defense. Furthermore, after the prosecution became aware of Carson’s molestations of his sister, as well as Jeff and Julie’s perjured affidavits and evidence tampering, the State’s Attorney pursued the conviction of Jeremy Barney for crimes that never occurred, while overlooking actual abuse and endangerment and, in effect, forcing the _X_ children to live with criminal parents in an incestuous home.
- Jeremy’s attorney, for his part, provided egregiously ineffective counsel throughout every stage of the investigation and adjudication of his client’s case.