The 65-month sentence for former Marine Lance Cpl. Samual London in the death of Daniel Hollis has been overturned, after a military appeals court ruled that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient.
London, a reservist with the 25th Marines based out of Fort Devens, was sentenced in June 2021 following six days of witness testimony in the General Court Martial proceedings.
Hollis—son of former Martin School Principal Jennifer Kelly—was leaving a party in Brighton on Sept. 28, 2019, with a group of friends when they were met by London and his friends, according to court records. At first, the two sides talked casually, and when London and his friends began to leave, one person said to Hollis’ group, “see you later, ladies,” to which one person in Hollis’ group responded, “see you later, grandma.”
Following this, the words got more heated and the physical confrontation started. During the fight, Hollis fell and struck his head, resulting in a serious injury. He was transported to an area hospital, but succumbed to his injuries a few days later at the age of 19.
Those records state that testimony was unclear as to how the fight started, as both sides claim the other was the one to escalate it.
In addition to his sentence of 65 months, London was dishonorably discharged. A spokesperson for the Marines confirmed that London was administratively separated from the Marine Corps effective Aug. 11, 2023.
Appeals court decision
However, in the court’s decision, it was stated that the evidence didn’t rule out other causes of Hollis’ injuries. While it is clear that the fall was what resulted in his death, defense attorneys argued that this could have happened because Hollis pulled on London’s sweatshirt during the fight and fell backward when it ripped.
“Indeed, the evidence is not in dispute that Appellant’s (London’s) sweatshirt was ripped that night,” the documents state. “Further, the expert testimony at trial supports the theory that the ligature mark on Appellant’s neck was the result of his sweatshirt being pulled against his neck until it ripped.”
In addition, medical experts could not testify with surety that a bruise on Hollis’ forehead was the result of a punch, and could have been the result of medical intervention.
‘Far from eliminating other potential causes of Mr. Hotel’s injuries, the medical evidence in this case merely established that Mr. Hotel’s injuries could have resulted from a punch,” the document state.
Approximately two weeks after the fight, London sought medical treatment for his hand for a broken bone at the base of his right thumb, according to court documents. When asked about these injuries, he claimed that he had punched an object while angry, but declined to explain further. A few months later, London went out for a drink with a friend and said that he had been involved in an altercation and someone had gotten seriously hurt, appearing sorrowful.
“As with the other evidence presented by the Government in this case, it certainly could be considered evidence of guilt, but it does not eliminate other reasonable explanations,” the ruling stated.
The court’s decision was to dismiss with prejudice all findings and evidence.
Attempts to reach a representative of the Hollis family were unsuccessful, however, a statement was posted to the Facebook page for the Daniel J. Hollis Foundation, a nonprofit started in Hollis’ memory to provide new opportunities to young people. A portion of the statement reads as follows:
“The Foundation recognizes that many lives were damaged in the early-hours of September 28, 2019. Too many young people were forced into adulthood in an instant and one very bright life was extinguished. It is crucially important to the family and the Foundation that our ongoing focus be on Daniel and the work of this Foundation. Despite his acquittal, London has been incarcerated since September of 2020. He has served close to three years behind bars and racked up hundreds of disciplinary infractions while incarcerated. While disappointed he will not serve his entire sentence, the Foundation is moving forward and keeping our attention and efforts on what is truly important – the life and love Dan had for his community, the joy he felt in learning and experiencing new things, and his love of sports and games. Please join us in supporting our work and keeping the focus on what is most important, the life of Daniel J Hollis.”