October 8, 2015

Attorney for Missouri Kimber Edwards, spared execution, wants his exoneration

The attorney for the man whose death sentence was commuted to life in prison Friday, days before his scheduled execution, says he wants to see his client exonerated.

Attorney Jeremy Weis

Attorney Jeremy Weis

Kimber Edwards had been scheduled to die by lethal injection Tuesday at the prison in Bonne Terre for hiring a man to kill his ex-wife. Orthell Wilson was convicted of carrying out that murder by shooting Kimberly Cantrell twice in the head in her University City apartment on August 22, 2000. Governor Jay Nixon (D) on Friday commuted Edwards’ sentence to life in prison without parole.

One of Edwards’ attorneys is Jeremy Weis, who says he’s pleased by the decision but still wants more for Edwards.

“I don’t think the work is done on the case,” Weis told Missourinet. “As cases get closer to an ultimate execution date some people do come forward and some information that maybe you didn’t know or people may be more willing to talk as it gets towards the end. Some of that has come forward.”

Wilson, who said in 2000 that Edwards hired him to kill Cantrell, has since recanted that statement and now claims Edwards had nothing to do with the crime. Weis says that isn’t all that has “come forward.”

Kimber Edwards (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

Kimber Edwards (courtesy; Missouri Department of Corrections)

“Orthell was certainly the primary driver in the prosecution of Mr. Edwards,” said Weis. “Also the testimony of [Wilson’s] brother, Hughie. I don’t want to say much more about that, but I do think there will be more coming forward in the future related to this case, because I don’t think it’s over.”

“I don’t think this is the end. I don’t think this should be the end. I don’t think he deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison because I think he deserves the opportunity to prove that he didn’t have anything to do with the murder of Miss Cantrell,” said Weis.

Any further effort on Edwards’ behalf won’t come immediately. Weis says he must shift his attention to his next case.

“I represent Ernest Johnson, and he is scheduled for execution on November 3, so my focuses will now turn to him at least in the foreseeable future,” said Weis. “But I think over the course of the next few months we’ll continue to work with Mr. Edwards on his defense and see what we can get done.”

Earlier story:  Missouri governor’s commutation cancels execution set for next week

Judge reverses decision to revoke license of embattled Missouri Sheriff

Osage County’s Sheriff will continue to serve his jurisdiction for the time being. In a ruling by Cole County Judge Jon Beetem, he said Sheriff Michael Dixon did not receive a fair trial and has reversed the Missouri Department of Public Safety’s decision to revoke Dixon’s peace officer license.

Judge Jon Beetum

Judge Jon Beetum

The judge said there were several irregularities. One example given was the DPS’s release of a statement to media about the sheriff’s revocation before the sheriff had even received the final opinion. Judge Beetem ordered the Administrative Hearing Commission hold a new hearing for a “cause” determination.

Dixon pleaded guilty July 1, 2014, to a misdemeanor harassment charge rather than go to trial on a variety of charges, from tampering with a motor vehicle, sexual misconduct, third-degree assault, and stalking in exchange for two years probation.

The charges involved a female Belle police officer who had been part of his staff when he was Belle’s police chief. He was ordered to serve two years supervised probation, to complete training courses in sexual harassment and alcohol and drug treatment, and to not have any contact with the victim.


Missouri high court asked to consider constitutionality of juvenile sex offender registry

The state Supreme Court has heard the arguments for a developmentally disabled teenager accused of the sexual assault of his adoptive sister, that he shouldn’t be placed on the sex offender registry when he is an adult.

The Missouri Supreme Court

The Missouri Supreme Court

The lower judge that handled his case ordered that he be placed on the juvenile sex offender registry, which is not made public. The teen’s attorney, Patricia Harrison, argues state law will still put him on the adult registry.

“The statute requires that he be placed on that registry regardless of whether the juvenile judge felt that was appropriate,” Harrison said.

Harrison says the state law violates both the state and federal constitutions, arguing that for him to wind up on the adult registry would be an adult penalty imposed in a juvenile case, and would represent a cruel and unusual punishment.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Laudano said the teenager cannot challenge that law since it wasn’t imposed on him by the judge. He also argues the law is constitutional because it isn’t about punishment, but about protecting the public.

“In this case protection of the public from individuals who by a finding of age and a qualifying delinquent act pose a serious risk to public safety,” said Laudano.

The court could issue a ruling at any time. Its decision could have effects on other cases in which children are accused of serious sex crimes.

Missouri high court ruling allows age discrimination case against Chiefs to proceed

The Missouri Supreme Court has given new life to the case of a man who says the Kansas City Chiefs discriminated against him because of his age.

The Missouri Supreme Court

The Missouri Supreme Court

Former Chiefs maintenance manager Steven Cox sued the Chiefs, saying he had been fired to make room for younger employees. A judge threw out that Chiefs CEO Clark Hunt and then-executive director Scott Pioli had allegedly made remarks that they wanted to go from older staff to younger, as well as testimony by 20 other former employees regarding terminations and possible discrimination.

The Supreme Court said that evidence should not have been excluded and ordered the lower court to take the case back up, allowing those items to be considered.

The Chiefs argue Cox was not fired because of his age, but because his performance had waned and because he gave a janitor a $5,000 pay raise without permission.

“Evil man” executed

nunleyThe book has been closed on a quarter-century old murder case with the execution of the second killer involved.

Roderick Nunley, described by a former Kansas City policeman who investigated the murder of Ann Harrison in 1989, and who witnessed Nunley’s execution, says Nunley was an “evil man” who stabbed the 15-year old girl with a large knife, using such force that the blade went through her body.


Nunley’s partner, who raped the girl and stabbed her with a smaller knife, Michael Taylor, was executed last year. Nunley died quietly on a gurney in the execution chamber at the Bonne Terre Prison, hardly moving as five grams of pentobarbital ended his life.

Ann Harrison was snatched from a school bus stop about sixty feet from her home on the morning of March 22, 1989.  Her body was found in the trunk of the stolen car used by Nunley and Taylor three days after she was put in the trunk and stabbed repeatedly.

harrisonThe case broke open about three months later with a call to a police tips hotline.

A corrections department official who was an official witness to the execution says Nunley was violent throughout his time in prison and almost stabbed a unit supervisor to death at the Potosi prison, hoping the incident would delay progress on his death penalty case. The supervisor survived. Officials refused to file charges against Nunley so the capital punishment case could keep moving. He says Nunley was one of the few death row inmates who could not be allowed in the general prison population and was often kept in solitary confinement.

Nunley’s execution was delayed about three hours until all appeals were resolved. He was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m. He had no final statement.

Two members of Ann Harrison’s family and two family friends witnessed his death. Nunley had no relatives, friends, or spiritual advisers with him when he died.