ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Court of Appeals has overturned the murder conviction of Mechele Linehan, an ex-stripper accused of murdering her fiance.
The decision, handed down Friday morning, concluded it was improper for Superior Court Judge Philip Volland to allow evidence about the movie "The Last Seduction" and a letter written by Kent Leppink in the days before he died in which he predicted Linehan would kill him.
Leppink's body was found shot to death in Hope in 1996. Linehan, who had moved to Washington state where she became the wife of a physician, and John Carlin, the alleged shooter, were arrested on the murder charge in 2006. Both were sentenced to 99 years in prison.
Carlin was later killed at the Spring Creek Correctional Complex.
In the 2007 trial, prosecutor Pat Gullufsen said Linehan tried to emulate the lead character of the movie "The Last Seduction" in a plot to kill Leppink. The appeals judges said the evidence never should have been allowed for several reasons, including that the circumstances of Leppink's death were not similar to the movie.
Linehan's appeal lawyers, Jeff Feldman, Susan Orlansky and Alex Bryner, also tried to convince the Appeals Court that allowing evidence about Linehan's job as a stripper unfairly biased the jury. The court rejected this claim.
The district attorney can choose to bring the case to the Alaska Supreme Court, re-try it or set Linehan free.
Linehan was accused of plotting the murder, convincing Carlin to do the shooting. Prosecutors say the motive was Leppink's $1 million life insurance policy payout. Leppink changed the policy's beneficiary in the days before his death.
Linehan, who has always said she was innocent, admitted to having an unhealthy relationship with Leppink but said she had nothing to do with his death. She said she tried to cancel the life insurance policy, as did Leppink.
Linehan's husband, Colin Linehan, reached by phone, said he was just trying to take in the information and enjoy the day. There is still a long road ahead for him and his family, he said