Both Linehan and John Carlin III were convicted of first-degree murder in Leppink’s death after prosecutors said Linehan, a former stripper, convinced Carlin to kill Leppink.
The Alaska Court of Appeals overturned Linehan’s conviction in 2010, noting that the state’s case against her was circumstantial and that three pieces of evidence, including a letter written by Leppink implicating Linehan were he to die suspiciously, were improperly admitted at trial.
The state announced that it would retry Linehan for murder, with plans for the new trial delayed to 2012. After a motion from Linehan’s attorney arguing that Leppink’s letter remained inadmissible, however, Judge Philip Volland dismissed the state’s new indictment in December. Linehan was released in January and promptly boarded a flight to Washington state.
“Following Judge Volland’s decision and a thorough review of the state’s remaining evidence, the Office of Special Prosecutions has decided that further prosecution of Ms. Linehan would not be prudent at this time,” prosecutors wrote.
Assistant State Attorney General Paul Miovas said Monday that the state's case has also been hindered by deaths since the original trial.
"There have been several witnesses that testified at both trials that unfortunately are now deceased and are not available to call as witnesses as well," Miovas said. "So based on what we have and what we would be able to present at trial, at this point we just don't believe that we would likely prevail, we would be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt -- it's our obligation under the law not to go forward when we think that's the case."
Cindy Strout, Linehan's attorney, said Monday night that Linehan was relieved to hear the news.
"It's not any kind of celebratory thing, it's relief that the state has done the right thing at this point," Strout said.
Strout also accused prosecutors in Linehan's trial of withholding evidence favorable to her defense.
"The prosecution was fundamentally flawed from the beginning," she said. "In preparing for the new trial, we discovered that the prosecution on the first case had hidden important exculpatory evidence, and we think all Alaska citizens should be very concerned when the prosecuting authority overreaches like they did in this case."
Strout declined to give specifics about the favorable evidence she claims prosecutors withheld, but said she and Linehan would reveal that information at a future point.
In Monday's statement, the Office of Special Prosecutions was careful to hedge its bets about the possibility of future legal action.
“As with any prosecution, if new relevant evidence is discovered, the state will carefully consider that evidence and decide what action, if any, is appropriate,” prosecutors wrote. “There is no statute of limitations for murder in the state of Alaska.”