A brief hearing Thursday in Harford County Circuit Court was the culmination of nearly two years of stress and worry for McKenzie Lee Wright, as attempted murder and other charges against her were dropped by prosecutors.
Following almost two years home detention, jail time and wondering, “Am I going to jail today,” Wright said after the hearing there is no way for her to get back to normal.
“This is just going to make me grow,” she said.
Wright, 26, of Churchville, was twice indicted on charges of attempted murder, accused of striking her boyfriend with a car during a drunken, early morning argument in September 2019.
Her defense attorneys argued that a “knowingly false statement” penned by the arresting officer from the Aberdeen Police Department was a deciding factor in Wright initially being held without bond, and her two indictments.
In the first case against Wright filed on Sept. 27, 2019, police wrote in charging documents that Wright “got so mad at [her boyfriend] that she got inside her Hyundai, and struck [him] with the vehicle while he was standing in the street.”
Her attorneys filed a motion to dismiss, calling the statement false, after the prosecution disavowed the officer’s statement at Wright’s second bail review hearing on Nov. 20, 2019, when she was released after being in jail for weeks. A major factor in her bail consideration was the severity and intentional nature of the crime.
The initial charges were dropped at a February 2020 hearing, where Assistant State’s Attorney Cristin Treaster said she recognized something “wrong” with the first case against Wright and moved to correct it. But a new grand jury was convened and certified the same charges against Wright about a week before that hearing, leading to a second indictment.
Defense attorney Karen Jones said after Thursday’s hearing that grand jury proceedings are secret, but she believes the same false statement was used to certify the second case against Wright.
Because of the false statement, defense attorneys wrote in a motion to dismiss the second case, Wright was held without bail for weeks on the elevated charges of attempted first-degree murder.
Deputy State’s Attorney for Harford County Gavin Patashnick said Thursday that the case was not able to move forward because witnesses and the alleged victim were not cooperating. But that does not mean the case can’t be indicted again.
“Our office constantly reviews cases and, to the extent we are able to do that, of course we will move forward,” he said.
Jones said an expert contacted by the defense said Wright’s boyfriend’s injuries were not consistent with being hit by a car, and maintained that he had been “car-surfing.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines car-surfing as riding on the outside of a car being driven by another person.
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“This case should not have been prosecuted,” Jones said Thursday.
Though the case against her was dropped, Wright said she does not know what she will do next, but will not be the same person as before.
Since she was charged in September 2019, Wright had trouble finding work, she said. Nasty comments on the internet followed her indictment. She lost friends — Wright ventured that she spoke to half as many people now as she did before the charges — and out in public, she was persona non grata.
“They may not point me out, but they definitely recognize me,” Wright said of passersby.
Jones said “there certainly is” a opportunity for a civil case, but the family is weighing its options.
A message sent to an Aberdeen Police Department spokesperson was not immediately returned by 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
In February, Aberdeen police Lt. Will Reiber said that there had been no formal complaint filed about the officer’s misstatement and no investigation has been opened.