ANCHORAGE — Mechele Linehan wants a Superior Court judge to loosen her bail conditions so she can lead a more normal life as she prepares her defense in her upcoming murder trial.
Now staying in Anchorage as she awaits her trial -- which could be a year away -- she says she wants to take her daughter to the park. She wants to be able to dash out for milk when she needs some. And she wants to work -- she has an offer to be a receptionist at a local hair salon.
"Linehan is again innocent until proven guilty and entitled to reasonable bail," wrote her lawyer, John Cashion, in a recently filed motion protesting the bail conditions that keep her home almost all the time and under the watch of a third party.
The 37-year-old Olympia, Wash., woman has been on the strict bail terms since she was released from Hiland Mountain prison in May. She is confined to home for all but two four-hour periods a week. Cashion is asking that she be put on electronic monitoring to give her freedom to move around Anchorage.
In 2006, Linehan was accused of the 1996 murder of Kent Leppink. Prosecutors say the then-23-year-old Linehan hoodwinked the 36-year-old commercial fishermen into a marriage engagement, then killed him for a life insurance policy payout.
Juries convicted her and another man in the slaying, but the Alaska Appeals Court said she didn't get a fair trial and threw out her verdict earlier this year.
In setting Linehan's bail conditions, Superior Court Judge Philip Volland said she must be in constant sight or sound of one of the court-approved third parties, who include her mother, husband and an Anchorage woman who volunteered for the job after watching the case.
"Our family is frustrated," said Dr. Colin Linehan, sitting next to his wife in the family's newly rented one-bedroom apartment during an interview late last week.
"Why is it that I can't work?" Mechele Linehan asked. "I have a master's degree and I should be able to work. I've worked hard my whole life."
"I don't want to take public assistance," said Linehan, who has been relying on others to help her financially, especially since her husband declared bankruptcy, something that the family says was driven by legal expenses.
To accommodate bail requirements, the family has rented the apartment. Colin Linehan, a civilian doctor working for the Army near Olympia, has flown up from Washington and Mechele's mother has come in from Mississippi for stints at being third parties. Both have taken time off from their jobs in the Lower 48 to watch Linehan. Other friends have offered to do the same.
Part of the problem, Linehan said, is that she just doesn't know anyone in this state. The only people she knows are her lawyers and other women she befriended in prison.
According to Alaska law, the purpose of bail is to ensure a defendant's appearance at court proceedings, the defendant's motion says. "Linehan has never shown any inclination to flee and has no incentive to do so," Cashion wrote.
But prosecutor Pat Gullufsen says Linehan needs to be under tight controls because she is a flight risk. When contacted late last week he hadn't yet read the motion to ease the requirements and would not respond to it. But in earlier bail hearings, he said he worries that after the first conviction and a taste of prison, Linehan has more of an incentive to not risk another trial.
Cashion says the opposite. He argues that Linehan complied with all court ordered conditions when she was out on bail the year after she was charged with the crime. "With her track record on previous release, and the current strength of the State's case, she is even less of a flight risk than she was in 2006," Cashion wrote.
Volland agreed at a bail hearing last spring that Linehan was less of a flight risk.
"Where Mechele's case is so unusual is that you rarely get a homicide case where the person has no substance abuse history, has no mental health history, no criminal history," Cashion said in an interview last week. "We don't get homicide cases very often that don't have any of those elements."
For now, Linehan is confined to her one-bedroom apartment with her young daughter, who is staying with her for the summer, and her third-party custodian.
"We've always been an outdoor family," Linehan said as she fixed her daughter's laces on her sneakers. "It's damaging to kids not to have physical activity."
Linehan has her next bail hearing on July 7.