Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Kerry Max Cook; Texas; Bulletin; Major (distressing) Development; A judge has recommended against finding Kerry Max Cook 'actually innocent'...“The ultimate issue in this case is a determination of who murdered Linda Edwards, not who had sexual relations with Linda Edwards,” Carter wrote. “(The new evidence) is definitely helpful to Cook’s defense, but this court does not find that it unquestionably proves that Cook is actually innocent. ”Tyler Morning Telegraph;

BACKGROUND: (From Northwestern's Bluhm Legal Clinic: 'Doctors diagnosis was nearly fatal': "Kerry Max Cook was twice convicted and twice sentenced to death for the 1977 murder and mutilation of a 21-year-old secretary in Tyler, Texas. The first conviction, in 1978, rested primarily on the testimony of a jailhouse snitch who claimed that Cook had confessed. Other witnesses testified that Cook had on occasion peered through the victim's window, watching her undress, and that, shortly before the murder, he had watched a movie depicting the mutilation of a cat. Dr. James Grigson, a now-infamous Dallas forensic psychiatrist dubbed "Dr. Death" by defense lawyers, testified that Cook had an antisocial personality disorder, virtually assuring that he would kill again. The prosecutor branded Cook a "little pervert," telling the jury: "I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't eat [the victim's] body parts." The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and death sentence, but in 1988, with Cook 11 days from execution, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Texas court to review the case. Three years later, that court finally granted Mr. Cook a new trial. After one mistrial, Cook was convicted and sentenced to death a second time in 1994. Two years later, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned that conviction saying that "prosecutorial and police misconduct has tainted this entire matter from the outset." By this time, all of the evidence against Cook had been discredited, largely as a result of a reinvestigation conducted by Centurion Ministries. Prosecutors nonetheless threatened to try him yet again, even though DNA testing contradicted their original theory of the case, strongly suggesting that someone else committed the crime. Unaware of the DNA results, Cook agreed to plead no contest to a reduced charge of murder in order to avoid another possible death sentence."

TYLER MORNING NEWS STORY: Reporter Roy Maynard: (July 25, 2016): "A state district judge has declined to recommend that the state Court of Criminal Appeals approve Kerry Max Cook’s writ of actual innocence in the death of Linda Jo Edwards in 1977. Though Cook was twice convicted of her murder and spent nearly 20 years on death row, his conviction was set aside by Judge Jack Carter in June, following an agreement between Cook’s lawyers and the Smith County District Attorney’s Office. That was based on the fact that false evidence was given by a witness in Cook’s trials. But setting aside that verdict wasn’t a full exoneration. That’s something Cook sought with his writ. But Judge Carter, in his ruling released late Monday, found that Cook hadn’t met the high bar that “actual innocence” would require. “In order to meet this high standard of proof, the convicted defendant must show that new evidence, not available during trial, unquestionably establishes the applicant’s innocence,” Carter wrote. “Said another way, the new evidence must clearly and convincingly establish innocence. The applicant must show by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted him, in light of the new evidence.” But new evidence must be weighed against the whole, Carter said. And there’s undisputed evidence Cook was in the victim’s apartment - his fingerprint was found. And that witness who lied - former college dean James Mayfield - was shown to have had an affair with Ms. Edwards, but that’s all. “The ultimate issue in this case is a determination of who murdered Linda Edwards, not who had sexual relations with Linda Edwards,” Carter wrote. “(The new evidence) is definitely helpful to Cook’s defense, but this court does not find that it unquestionably proves that Cook is actually innocent.” Contacted late Monday, Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham said he’s pleased with the recommendation, which will now go before the Court of Criminal Appeals.........Bingham could conceivably retry Cook on the charges. He did not rule that out Monday night. “If the Court of Criminal Appeals adopts Judge Carter’s findings, then I will decide at that point how I will proceed,” he said. Cook was tried for the crime in 1978, convicted and sentenced to die by a Smith County jury. But the Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the case in 1989, because a psychologist had not read Cook his Miranda warning, thus rendering all information in the psychological interview useless. He was not freed at the time because he remained under indictment for capital murder, and then-Smith County District Attorney Jack Skeen took two more tries at convicting Cook. In 1992, Smith County tried the case, but the jury deadlocked, and a mistrial was declared. In 1994, Cook was found guilty of capital murder, but prosecutors used the testimony of a witness who had died. That was reversed by the Court of Criminal Appeals in 1997. In 1998, as Smith County was moving forward with a fourth trial, Skeen offered Cook a deal that would convict him of murder but would not require him to admit he killed the woman. In exchange for his plea of no contest, Cook was convicted of murder but sentenced to the time he already served. He was released from prison and has been challenging the ruling ever since. If he had been declared actually innocent, Cook would have been eligible for restitution from the State of Texas for as much as $1.6 million."

See Texas Monthly article  by Michael Hall (June 6, 2016) - Reversal of Fortune Kerry Max Cook, a subject of The Exonerated, is finally exonerated - at the link below: "For almost 39 years, prosecutors in the Smith County District Attorney’s office have done their best to either send Kerry Max Cook to death row, keep him there, or—after he was freed on bond in 1997—prevent him from ever being able to walk the streets with absolute impunity. Today, these efforts stopped. This morning, in the 114th District Court of Smith County, district attorney Matt Bingham agreed to not contest Cook’s writ of habeas corpus—and to join with Cook’s attorneys in recommending that his murder conviction be overturned. Cook, who has sworn his innocence since he was arrested in August 1977 for the murder of Linda Jo Edwards, has finally been legally exonerated. Cook’s lawyers had filed the habeas writ in 2015, then filed a couple of amended writs this past spring, containing additional grounds. The most important ground, and the one Cook wanted the most, was the first, claiming that he is “actually innocent.” The state didn’t address that claim but agreed the court should grant the writ based on ground number five, that “Mr. Cook’s due process rights were violated by the presentation of false testimony from James Mayfield.” From 1977 to 1992, Mayfield—the boyfriend of Edwards, whom Cook was convicted of killing, had claimed that he and Edwards last had sex three weeks before her murder, and the prosecution used this to back up their assertion that the couple were just friends in that time; thus he had no motive to kill her. But in an April interview, Mayfield admitted that, in fact, the couple had had sex on June 8, the day before she was murdered. Mayfield also testified that he was not with Edwards in her apartment on the night of her murder—but a 1991 police report uncovered by Cook’s lawyers Gary Udashen and Bruce Anton found that Edwards’s roommate had told prosecutors that in fact she had seen Mayfield in the room with Edwards not long before she was murdered. This police report was not turned over to Cook’s lawyers before his trials in 1992 or 1994."