Missouri's Josh Kezer Released After 17 Years

Via MikeB30020, in Jefferson City, Missouri, Josh Kezer has been ordered released from prison by Judge Richard Callahan. There won't be a new trial. Case over.

A man who spent half of his life in prison for a 1992 slaying was freed Wednesday after a judge ruled that he was wrongly convicted and had to be retried or released.

Joshua Kezer, 34, left the Jefferson City Correctional Center on Wednesday afternoon when Scott County prosecutor Paul Boyd said he would not seek a new trial.

TChris wrote this post about Kezer a few months ago. Kezer was prosecuted by Kenny Hulshof, who went on to become a Republican congressman from Missouri and last year made an unsuccessful bid for MO Governor.

The key witness changed his story and Hulshof didn't disclose it to the defense. [More...]

In his ruling, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan criticized the special prosecutor who helped persuade a jury to convict Kezer of second-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Angela Mischelle Lawless, a 19-year-old nursing student at Southeast Missouri State University. Callahan ruled that special state prosecutor Kenny Hulshof improperly withheld several key pieces of evidence from Kezer's defense attorneys.

Callahan also said Kezer met the legal burden of "demonstrating actual innocence by clear and convincing evidence. ... Confidence in his conviction and sentence are so undermined that they cannot stand and must be set aside."

As TChris wrote in his post:

Given the slim and shady evidence against Kezer, it's reasonable to believe he would have been acquitted had the jury known that Abbott changed his story -- and continued to change it, eventually giving five different versions of what he allegedly witnessed. Prosecutor-turned-politician Kenny Hulshof apparently didn't want to risk losing a high profile case by divulging the full story.

Hulshof's reaction:

Hulshof, a former member of Congress who now works for a Kansas City-based law firm, said in a statement Tuesday that he remained "convinced that Joshua Kezer, a member of the violent Latin Kings gang, is guilty of this crime."

My comment on Hulsof is here. As an aside, that's what he told me when I interviewed him about Dale Helmig. He needs to retire that talking point.

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  • Display: Sort:
    What kind of law is ther against this? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Chatham on Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 09:45:42 AM EST
    Do people who destroy others lives face little recourse?  Can criminal charges be pressed?  If so,  are they often pressed?  I find it hard to understand why the people prosecuted are gone after so hard for the lives they destroyed, but those in the system who do this to people don't seem to have much to worry about.

    this is what happens with prosecuting (none / 0) (#4)
    by of1000Kings on Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 01:01:15 PM EST
    atty's when they're more worried about their public image than the law...

    I'm from MO and I can confidently say that Hulsof is and arse...

    this is a guy who voted to ban gay adoptions, and voted yes on ending what he considered 'preferential treatment' for minorities in regard to college admissions...

    he also voted yes on making the Patriot Act permanent...


    Forensic Evidence recommendations (none / 0) (#2)
    by samtaylor2 on Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 09:59:51 AM EST

    I would appreciate what your thoughts are on the Forensic evidence recommendations that I assume (I heard about it on NPR yesterday) recently.  


    It's so sad, and yet thank God he's free (none / 0) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 11:36:27 AM EST
    34 years old and 17 years spent in prison.  I can handle having life throw quite a bit of stuff at me but experiencing this just boggles my mind.

    SCOTUS ruled on this last month (none / 0) (#5)
    by Hannah McCrea on Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 02:23:06 PM EST
    What happened to Josh Kezer is very similar to what happened to Thomas Goldstein, the respondent in Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, which was decided by the Supreme Court last month.

    Goldstein (also wrongfully convicted after a prosecutor failed to disclose exculpatory info to his defense attorney) sued the prosecutor who mishandled his case under Section 1983. The prosecutor, of course, claimed absolute immunity. Sadly, the Court ruled in favor of the prosecutor even though (as the group Constitutional Accountability Center argued in an amicus brief) the Constitution doesn't uphold the notion of absolute prosecutorial immunity. (There's more here and here.)

    Had Goldstein won his Supreme Court case, Kezer might have a really good shot at suing Hulshof and getting some token of justice.

    but jeralyn, (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Thu Feb 19, 2009 at 02:52:54 PM EST
    He needs to retire that talking point.

    it's such a great talking point!

    after all, what's the guy supposed to say? "oh, gee, oops, sorry about that!"? wouldn't look good at all on the old resume', now would it?

    my only consolation is the knowledge that dante had a special place in hell reserved for these guys, since the supreme court seems loath to rein them in.

    i hope (but doubt) that mr. kezer is able to seek some financial compensation from the state, on whose behalf this injustice was perpetrated.

    i also hope that the state resumes the search for the actual murderer, but i doubt that will happen either.

    Actually, there is hope (none / 0) (#8)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Feb 20, 2009 at 01:40:31 AM EST
    i also hope that the state resumes the search for the actual murderer, but i doubt that will happen either.

    This is one of those rare cases where there is hope.  The sheriff reopened the case a few years ago and was largely responsible for uncovering a lot of the exculpatory evidence.  The eyewitness with his many stories is actually one of the principal suspects in the case, and the sheriff is determined to hold the real killer or killers responsible.

    about the sheriff (none / 0) (#9)
    by txpublicdefender on Fri Feb 20, 2009 at 01:44:53 AM EST
    From one of the articles on the case:
    Among those greeting Kezer in the prison lobby was Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter, who as a reserve deputy in 1992 discovered Lawless' body in her idling car along an Interstate 55 exit ramp in southeast Missouri.

    Walter said he was plagued with doubts about the case for years. After being elected Scott County sheriff in 2004, he assigned a team of investigators to re-examine the case. The renewed scrutiny turned up several key pieces of evidence that contributed to Kezer's release.