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Judge to determine whether Russ Faria should be granted a new trial

Russ Faria
Russ Faria

Originally posted on Ground Report

A hearing is scheduled for Friday, June 5, 2015, to decide if Russ Faria should be granted a new trial based on the finding of new evidence.

In 2014, Faria’s defense team filed a motion with the Missouri Eastern District Court of Appeals to motion for remand to file motion for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Their request was granted in February of this year.

Russell “Russ” Faria, 45, was convicted in Missouri in 2013 of murdering his terminally ill wife, Elizabeth “Betsy” Faria, in 2011. Faria’s conviction was shocking because he had what appeared to be a rock-solid alibi. Four witnesses testified that Faria was with them watching movies at the time of the murder. Gas station security cameras and a fast food receipt also confirm Faria’s whereabouts that evening. Faria is currently serving a sentence of life without parole.

The appellate ruling in Faria’s favor, suggests that newly discovered evidence could produce a different verdict in a retrial. The defense motion that spurred the ruling focuses on two claims of newly discovered evidence. The first claim points to another possible murder suspect named Pam Hupp. Hupp claims to have been a longtime friend of the victim, Betsy Faria. According to Hupp, the Farias had a rocky relationship. Hupp claims that Betsy confided with her that her husband had been abusive. None of Hupp’s claims have been supported by anyone else in Betsy Faria’s life. Hupp became the beneficiary of Betsy Faria’s life insurance policy just four days before her murder. At the time, Russ Faria was completely unaware of this change.

Hupp was never considered a suspect by police. In fact she was viewed as a credible witness. Hupp testified for the prosecution at Faria’s trial. This is when the defense learned that Hupp had become the beneficiary of the life insurance policy, and sought to introduce evidence pointing to Hupp as a possible alternative suspect. The prosecution moved to exclude the evidence, arguing that there was no real connection between Hupp and Betsy Faria’s murder.

Faria’s defense believes that Hupp’s behavior strongly suggests that she should have been viewed as a suspect by police. Hupp befriended Betsy and became the beneficiary of her life insurance policy. Hupp insisted on driving Betsy home from her chemotherapy treatment on the day of her murder, and was the last person to see Betsy alive. The defense argues that this information is crucial to the case and should not have been suppressed.

The appellate court ruled in favor of the defense, stating: “Hupp was a friend of Victim, drove her home on the night of her murder, and was a witness for the State. The evidence that was excluded at trial included information that Victim had changed the beneficiary of a $150,000 life insurance policy to Hupp four days before her murder. Hupp had told police that Victim changed the beneficiary so that Hupp would use the money to take care of her daughters from a previous marriage. During an offer of proof at trial, Hupp testified that she had established a trust for the daughters with $100,000.”
Hupp would go on to collect the life insurance policy after Betsy’s death, and to this day she has not given any money to Betsy’s two daughters. The daughters filed a lawsuit in April of 2014 claiming Hupp defrauded them out of $150,000 in life insurance.

The second piece of newly discovered evidence details an alleged affair between lead prosecutor Leah Askey, and one of the lead detectives on the case named Michael Lang. Michael Corbin, one of four alibi witnesses to testify for the defense, received information from an anonymous source claiming to have disparaging information about Prosecutor Askey. The source provided alleged emails from Detective Michael Lang to Prosecutor Leah Askey, discussing an affair between the two. Corbin broke the news about the alleged affair while speaking with me on the Injustice Anywhere online radio program in October of 2014.

Corbin was served a subpoena for the June 5 hearing. He is the only alibi witness who was served a subpoena to testify.

The appellate court ruling is very clear and strongly indicates that Faria should be granted a new trial. The lower court will have some explaining to do if it rules against the appellate court’s reasoning. Appellate court rulings of this nature are very rare. The proof must weigh heavily in the defendant’s favor to receive such a ruling. According to Faria’s attorney, Joel Schwartz, the Missouri appeals court has only issued three other orders like it in history.

Faria’s friends and family are urging supporters to attend the June 5 hearing. Support for Russ continues to grow at a steady rate, so the turnout will likely be impressive. The hearing will be held at the Lincoln County Justice Center, 45 Business Park Drive, Troy Missouri. The hearing starts at 10 am and will be presided over by the Honorable Judge Steven Russell Ohmer.

The Russ Faria case is an Injustice Anywhere featured case.