Missourians who oppose the death penalty are asking courts and Governor Jay Nixon to consider the testimony of a confessed murderer, that the man sentenced to death for hiring him is innocent, before that man is executed for that hiring next week.
Kimber Edwards is scheduled to die by lethal injection October 6 at the state prison at Bonne Terre. He was convicted of hiring Orthell Wilson to kill his ex-wife, Kimberly Cantrell, 15 years ago at her University City home.
Wilson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in April he lied to investigators about Edwards’ involvement to secure a plea deal that would allow him to avoid the death penalty. Wilson’s claim now is that he had been secretly carrying on a relationship with Cantrell and killed her after an argument.
“15-years later he has decided to finally tell the truth, and the truth is that he wasn’t paid, that he was in a relationship with Miss Cantrell, that he knew her independent of any connection to our client, Kimber Edwards,” said Weis. “Under no pressure from us, under no pressure from Mr. Edwards – in fact we can’t offer him anything – he has decided to come forward and tell the truth.”
The Attorney General’s Office says that’s not true. In its response to the request for a new hearing with the Missouri Supreme Court, it calls the statements made this year by Wilson “incredible,” and said they are his “fourth version of events.” It said Edwards’ attorneys told Wilson they would help him challenge his life sentence if he said Edwards is innocent.
“Wilson’s fourth statement was clearly orchestrated by Edwards, not to save an innocent man, but instead made to help Edwards escape his death sentence. Wilson was also motivated to make this new statement after he received assurances that he may receive legal help in exchange for his assistance, and was not concerned that his recent statement was false because, as he told his family, he had already been convicted of the murder,” the Attorney General’s Office wrote in its response.
Advocates argue say Edwards’ and Wilson’s confessions that led to their convictions were false and given after they were coerced. Police said Edwards admitted to paying $1,600 for the murder.
Tricia Bushnell with the Midwest Innocence Project says Edwards has Asperger’s syndrome and blames that for impairing his judgement, and says members of his family were questioned and fingerprinted by police, all adding to pressure on him to confess.
“It’s difficult for us, those of us who don’t go through the system and aren’t actually accused of doing something we didn’t commit, to understand how someone could ever confess to something they didn’t do, particularly something has heinous as murder,” said Bushnell, but she says of 330 cases in which DNA exonerated someone convicted of murder, false confessions were taken in more than a quarter of them.
Edwards was originally sentenced to be executed in May but that date was suspended by the state Supreme Court. It did not give a reason for that action but his attorneys at the time said they were too busy with other cases to spend time on Edwards’ case.