SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A Springfield, Missouri, defense attorney has been charged with paying a witness to lie on the stand in a murder case.
Adam Woody, 38, was charged Friday with perjury and two counts of tampering with a witness during a hearing that led up to the 2016 retrial of Michael Amick, reports the Springfield News-Leader. The retrial ended with Amick being acquitted in the 2008 killing of his wife’s grandmother, Leona “Maxine” Vaughn in Oregon County, near the Arkansas border.
Woody’s attorney, Thomas Carver, said Woody is adamant that he is innocent and that the state’s case is built on the word of convicted felons.
At issue is prisoner James Higdon’s pre-trial hearing testimony that fellow prisoner David Youngblood, who is serving life without parole for the deaths of four older adults, had confessed to killing Vaughn. Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers are now saying Higdon was paid $1,000. A judge didn’t allow the statements to be admitted at the retrial, which stemmed from an issue with an alternative juror in the first trial.
The probable cause statement says investigators pulled records from the Missouri Department of Corrections that indicated Woody and Amick’s mother, Linda Amick, each made $500 payments to Higdon.
Carver said Woody’s payments were made after it was determined Higdon would not be testifying at the actual trial. Carver said it’s not uncommon for attorneys to make “charitable contributions” to incarcerated witnesses they encounter while working cases.
Youngblood allegedly told investigators that Higdon had come to him before the hearing with a proposal to let the defense team use Youngblood’s name to cast doubt on Amick’s culpability. In exchange for letting Higdon drop his name on the witness stand, Youngblood said he was supposed to be paid $500 and then invoke his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination if he was ever called to the stand, according to the statement.
Youngblood said he also got a visit from Woody before the trial, and Woody told him “It would be worth a lot if you would just say you did it,” according to the statement.
The statement says Youngblood told investigators he never saw any money for his role in the scheme, and he also did not kill Vaughn since he was out of state at the time of her death.
The statement says that when Amick filed a lawsuit alleging that he was wrongly prosecuted in Vaughn’s murder, Higdon wrote a letter to the firm handling the lawsuit and demanded more money. The statement says Woody then filed an affidavit in federal court stating he never paid Higdon or Youngblood. When confronted by a highway patrol investigator, however, Woody said he paid Higdon $500 because he felt sorry for Higdon, according to the statement.
Higdon and Linda Amick were also charged with perjury and tampering with a witness. Higdon is being housed at the Western Missouri Correctional Center in Cameron.