Kerry Max Cook, Free but Still Hoping for Innocence, Speaks Out Against His Prosecutors
Kerry Max Cook, a former Texas death row inmate who was released in 1999, resumed his quest to be declared innocent when he filed motions in Smith County District Court at the end of February. Tuesday, the criminal justice blog Grits for Breakfast published a letter by Cook in which he vented his intense frustrations with the prosecutors responsible for putting him behind bars and keeping him there for 22 years for the 1978 rape and murder of his neighbor, Linda Jo Edwards.
Photo by Mark Graham Kerry Max Cook
The Observer laid out his saga in a two part (Part 1, Part 2) series in 1999. Earlier that year, Cook pleaded "no contest" to a reduced murder charge and walked out of the court a free man without admitting guilt, which he vowed he would never do. He was free but not exonerated, living in a strange purgatory of constant skepticism and explanation. Now, more than a decade after his release, he seeks the the court's declaration of actual innocence, an acknowledgement that no reasonable court would have found him guilty of the crime if they were in possession of the current evidence.
Cook's letter on Grits for Breakfast begins with Article 2.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, which reads, "... It shall be the primary duty of all prosecuting attorneys, including any special prosecutors, not to convict, but to see that justice is done ..."
"What do Williamson County's Ken Anderson and Smith County's Jack Skeen share in common?" Cook asks in his letter. "Both were awarded 'Prosecutor of the Year' by the County and District Attorneys section of the Texas State Bar. And both were later appointed to District Judgeships by Gov. Rick Perry."
Anderson was the prosecutor responsible for the conviction of Michael Morton, who was wrongfully found to have murdered his wife in 1987. An investigation is under way into possible prosecutorial misconduct in the case.
"In fact, of all the things you can say Jack Skeen and Ken Anderson have in common, the one thing they don't is that Jack Skeen is not facing a Court of Inquiry and Ken Anderson is," Cook writes.
His own case is rife with issues in how the prosecution handled evidence, Cook writes, many examples of which are detailed in the Observer series and were investigated closely in many Dallas Morning News stories, which called into question the accuracy and significance of the fingerprint evidence on the Linda Jo Edwards' door and the reliability of the eyewitness testimony, among other questionable procedures and conclusions.
"If anyone really say down and took the time to wade through all the documented Jack Skeen and David Dobbs [the prosecutors on his case] misconduct in my case, I think you would be shocked at how bad it really was," Cook writes. With his latest filing, he may face yet another day in court to finally determine not his guilt, but his innocence.