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Missouri AG opposes release of man convicted of murder

January 26, 2022 GMT

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has asked the state Supreme Court not to release a man who has spent nearly 20 years in prison for a murder that he and his supporters say he did not commit.

Keith Carnes, 51, has been in prison since he was convicted in 2006 of killing a rival drug dealer, 24-year-old Larry White, in Kansas City.

The Missouri Supreme Court is considering a petition to release Carnes from prison, based in part on witnesses recanting their statements. His attorneys have also argued that Kansas City police did not give Carnes’ original defense team a report from a confidential informant that might have led to his exoneration, The Kansas City Star reported.

On Jan. 18, a special master who was asked to review the case submitted a 111-page report to the state Supreme Court that included a finding that the police report was not given to Carnes’ defense team.

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In response to the special master’s report, Carnes’ lawyers filed a motion seeking his immediate release.

In his motion filed Monday, Schmitt said the claim that a police report was withheld is “without merit.” He also said new evidence cited by Carnes’ attorneys is an effort to put a “different spin” on evidence that had previously been presented.

Schmidt said Carnes did not meet the legal requirements of providing new reliable evidence that would prompt jurors not to convict him.

On Tuesday, Carnes’ attorneys filed a response saying that Schmitt’s motion was mainly an attack on the reasoning in the special master’s report and renewing their request that Carnes be released, KSHB-TV reported.

Schmidt’s motion to keep a man in prison despite claims that he is innocent and strong support from others mirrors his response in a similar case that received national publicity last year.

Schmidt, a Republican who is running for the U.S. Senate, fought to keep Kevin Strickland in prison after Jackson County prosecutors filed a motion seeking his release, saying that evidence showed Strickland had served more than 40 years in prison for a triple murder he did not commit. Strickland was exonerated and released from prison in November.

In Carnes’ case, two witnesses who identified him as the killer when interviewed by police on the night White was killed recanted their testimony in 2014. They said they had been pressured by police and Jackson County prosecutors to identify Carnes as the killer.

Another witness, Kermit O’Neal, also said police had intimidated him when they interviewed him about the night of the murder. He said White had an argument with another dealer — not Carnes — and warned him not to come back to his property shortly before the killing.

However, in an April 2021 court hearing, one of those witnesses testified that her original testimony was correct and said she had recanted because of threats from Carnes’ supporters.