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.The victim was Angela Mischelle Lawless, a 19-year-old nursing student at Southeast Missouri State University. Kezer was 17 at the time, and apparently a gang member with a bad reputation. His conviction was partly based on testimony of another suspect in Lawless' death who said he saw Kezer at a nearby convenience store on the night of the killing.
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.
But Mark Abbott, who is serving a 20-year drug sentence in federal prison, gave conflicting testimony in police interviews and subsequent statements.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 Lawless. Callahan ruled that special state prosecutor Kenny Hulshof improperly withheld several key pieces of evidence from Kezer's defense attorneys.
Three Cape Girardeau County jail inmates also claimed that Kezer had confessed to killing Lawless, but they later acknowledged lying in hopes of getting reduced sentences on their own charges.
On the Talk Left site there was an article posted about this case in December during the hearings that led up to yesterday's ruling. One of the comments was especially illuminating. It was by Jeralyn Merrit (here's her bio). What she shared with us is that Mr. Hulshof while working as prosecutor was no stranger to bending the rules a bit in order to get his man. This is not the first time he's had murder convictions reversed. When asked about that he said that he remained, "convinced that Joshua Kezer, a member of the violent Latin Kings gang, is guilty of this crime."
Even I can see the logic in this kind of thinking. A kid is in a gang, he's well known to other young thugs, he might have done the crime at hand and certainly has done others. For the good of society, and even for his own good, you get him off the streets. You do it any way you can. That's the way they think, isn't it?
Here's what Preaching to the Choir had to say about it. Including a quotable quote: "I think jailhouse informant testimony is worth less than my IRA."
What do you think about that? Is it good for society in the long run? Isn't this the same rationale some use for the death penalty? It's expedient, they say. Mistakes are kept to a minimum, and overall we're way ahead of the game.
I believe these attitudes which are quite prevalent among prosecutors, policemen and judges need to be changed. When they go too far like in the cases of Mr. Hulshof, they need to be prosecuted themselves. When a person lies or conceals the facts in order to achieve his goal, I say that's criminal, or it should be.
As far as motive goes, I think we'd be generous to presume that the ones who engage in this are all doing so for the good of society. In many cases I would imagine personal gain through career advancement is the true motive, which would make it all the worse.
What's your opinion. Please feel free to leave a comment.