A Black Tennessee woman who was just a teen when she was charged with being involved in the death and robbery of a man has been granted a new trial due to errors by the court.
Angel Bumpass was 24 when a jury found her guilty of playing a role in the 2009 death of 68-year-old Franklin Bonner when she was 13. But last Wednesday, a Hamilton County Criminal Court judge granted Bumpass a new trial due to the errors the court made during the original trial, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.
“I’m absolutely thrilled, I’m sure when I relay this information to Angel she would be thrilled as well,” Bumpass’ attorney William Massey said. “I read it last night before going to bed.”
Bonner was found unconscious on the floor, bound to a kitchen table and chair inside his home, on Jan. 16, 2009. There was duct tape around his feet, arms, head, nose, and mouth.
Bumpass was tried with Mallory Vaughn after they were identified as suspects in Bonner’s death 10 years after the murder occurred. Vaughn was 26 at the time of Bonner’s death, but Bumpass, who was 13, was found guilty after almost five hours of deliberations.
Vaughn was acquitted of all charges, while Bumpass was sentenced to life in prison after her partial fingerprints were found on duct tape used to restrain Bonner at the time of his death.
A medical examiner ruled Bonner’s cause of death to be suffocation. But one of the errors cited in Bumpass’ initial trial was the prosecution asking Linda Bonner, the victim’s wife, if she knew Bumpass’ grandmother, Shirley Bumpass, and if Bumpass’ grandmother had seen Bumpass at the Bonner home before.
“It was particularly hard for her, she’s always maintained her innocence in this,” Massey said. “We won a battle at this point, but we still have a war in front of us. The state has 60 days to file an appeal. It’s not a done deal yet.”
Another error was allowing a portion of the notes from Chattanooga Detective Karl Fields, who the department terminated for “wrongdoing involving a witness.”
“The court agrees that the cumulative effect of errors by the court and the parties support the granting of a new trial,” Judge Tom Greenholtz’s order said. “Accordingly, the court grants the defendant’s motion for a new trial.”