News 09.15.15

Innocence Project Team Presents Startling New Evidence of Official Misconduct in Case Riddled With Many Previous Findings of Misconduct

 (Dallas, TX – September 15, 2015)  The Innocence Project and the Innocence Project of Texas filed court papers yesterday urging a Texas Court to declare Kerry Max Cook innocent of the 1977 murder for which he spent more than 20 years on death row based on new DNA and other evidence proving his innocence.  Six rounds of recent DNA testing confirm Mr. Cook’s innocence and point to the victim’s ex-boyfriend  as the real perpetrator.  The papers also point to powerful new evidence that officials in Smith County, Texas, withheld favorable evidence to secure Mr. Cook’s 1999 “no contest” plea to murder (a highly unusual plea that required no admission of guilt and permitted Mr. Cook to maintain his factual innocence), and ordered a piece of highly probative evidence destroyed shortly after the state adopted a DNA testing law giving Mr. Cook the ability to request testing of the item for the purpose of securing his full legal exoneration.

The legal papers filed yesterday ask the court to vacate Mr. Cook’s no contest plea based on the fact that the new DNA evidence, viewed in light of the entire record, establishes that Mr. Cook is actually innocent of the crime, and because of the new evidence pointing to additional misconduct by Smith County officials. 
In light of this evidence, the Innocence Project has filed a motion before Smith County District Judge Christi Kennedy asking that she recuse herself from the case because of her close relationships with several of the prosecutors and judges who are alleged to have committed misconduct against Mr. Cook over the course of 38 years, three capital murder trials, and in the legal proceedings surrounding Mr. Cook’s no contest plea.  One of those officials, former elected Smith County District Attorney Jack Skeen, led the prosecution team seeking Mr.  Cook’s execution for more than 15  years; Skeen is now a judge on the same Smith County District Court as Judge Kennedy, which consists of only four judges.  The motion notes that judges in Texas and nationally regularly recuse themselves or are ordered to be recused from such cases, given the inherent difficulty in fairly resolving allegations of a fellow judicial colleague’s misconduct. 
The legal team representing Kerry Cook includes Nina Morrison, senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project; Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck; and Gary Udashen and Bruce Anton, Dallas attorneys appearing on behalf of the Innocence Project of Texas.
You can read more in a Texas Monthly article about the filing


and a Dallas Morning News Article


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