The Missouri Supreme Court in Jefferson City has heard arguments over which lower court should hear the case of a convicted double-murderer who’s seeking to clear himself.
Ricky Kidd has the support of numerous advocates, including a former prosecutor and a former Kansas City Police Commissioner who believe he’s innocent.
Kidd’s lawyers are seeking to have the Jackson County Circuit bench consider his habeas corpus petition to be released. Attorney Sean O’Brien admits the high court judges were skeptical of his argument that the case should heard in the same Jackson County court where Kidd was granted DNA testing.
“DNA statutes are a brand-new thing, jurisprudentially,” said O’Brien. “They’ve been around in many jurisdictions less than 10 years. And they have the potential to spread litigation around and make people go to different counties to try lawsuits. And the law doesn’t like that.”
By law, DNA testing can only be permitted through the court where the original case was heard, which for Ricky Kidd, was the Jackson County Circuit Court in Kansas City.
Those tests found insufficient DNA to provide results, but Circuit Judge Sandra C. Judge Midkiff determined that if there had been enough DNA to draw conclusions, it would have provided evidence that others, not Kidd, had committed the murders.
Shortly after he was transferred to Jackson County for his hearing before Judge Midkiff in 2016, O’Brien and Kidd’s two other attorneys filed the habeas corpus petition to ask for his release.
Midkiff granted that hearing last July, but the proceedings were stayed by the Supreme Court after Attorney General Josh Hawley filed a motion to temporarily block them.
Hawley argued that because Kidd is not incarcerated in Midkiff’s jurisdiction, she is not empowered to hear the case. In court documents filed for the Supreme Court, the attorney general’s office contended Kidd’s argument can only be heard in the county where he’s in custody.
They claim that the Dekalb County Circuit Court must consider Ricky Kidd’s habeas corpus petition for release, because he’s in custody at the state corrections facility there, Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron.
Assistant state Attorney General John Sauer further stated before the high court judges Wednesday that the warden at the corrections center is the custodian who has responsibility of Kidd.
“The plain and ordinary meaning of the word custody is what governs here,” said Sauer. “It’s a legal authority and responsibility of the warden. Even though he got to move for a few days to Jackson County, he is still in custody in Dekalb County. The habeas petition had to be addressed in the first instance to a judge in Dekalb County.”
As of last Wednesday, Department of Corrections spokesperson Karen Pojmann confirmed for Missourinet that Kidd was actually being held at the Kansas City Detention Center awaiting a civil case, but stipulated his “assigned housing” is at Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron.
Kidd was convicted in 1996 of a double murder that witnesses said involved three men. He became the lead suspect from an anonymous tip that his attorneys suspect came from one of the actual killers.
Kidd claims he and the mother of his child were at a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office at the time of the murders, filling out an application for a gun permit. The security video tape of the transaction had been recorded over by the time his trial attorney tried to retrieve it.
He and his co-defendant, Marcus Merrill, were convicted together even though a third person was never located.
After his appeals were exhausted, Kidd’s case moved to a federal district court.
It was there that Merrill testified that it was he and a father and son, Gary Goodspeed, Sr., and Gary Goodspeed, Jr., who had committed the crime. Evidence collected by investigators since the original trial that corroborated Merrill’s testimony was also presented.
But since the federal court’s legal standard states that evidence cannot be “new” if it was able to be discovered at the time of original trial, Kidd was denied a new court case or release from prison.
One eye witness at the original trial, Richard Harris, has also recanted his testimony that he saw Kidd commit the murder while walking nearby the incident. Kidd’s attorneys contend Harris originally testified against him under threat of the Goodspeeds.
Kidd is being represented at present by three attorneys who are working through the Midwest Innocence Center. Before the Supreme Court, they’ll be defending Judge Midkiff’s decision to hear his argument for release.
Some high-ranking law enforcement personnel have lobbied for Kidd’s release after examining the circumstances of his conviction. In December 2016, former Kansas City Police Commissioner Alvin Brooks sent a letter to then Governor Jay Nixon, asking him to pardon Kidd. Nixon declined.
At least one state lawmaker has been critical of efforts by Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office to block Kidd’s petition for release in Jackson County.
Democratic Representative Brandon Ellington of Kansas City is suspect of Hawley’s motives, given the parties who now think he was wrongly convicted.
O’Brien, Kidd’s lead attorney before the Supreme Court, told Missourinet Wednesday that he’ll continue to seek Kidd’s release from prison, regardless of the high bench outcome. “Nothing here is going to stop Ricky from moving forward,” O’Brien said. “Whatever the ruling is, we will still be moving forward.”
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision in Ricky Kidd’s case in the upcoming weeks.