JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments in the Keith Carnes case Wednesday, the Kansas City man who says he was wrongly convicted of murder.
Carnes is currently serving a life sentence for a 2003 murder but says he’s innocent. His attorney, Kent Gipson, said there was a lack of physical evidence and witnesses have recanted their statements, but the attorney general’s office says Carnes is guilty.
“The path of least resistance here is to grant him a new trial which he obviously deserves,” Gipson told the state’s highest court Wednesday morning. “The evidence was suppressed, and it was not found until after it was too late to be advanced in Mr. Carnes’ 2915 motion.”
Carnes is behind bars for murdering 24-year-old Larry White in 2003. His lawyer is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to make Carnes a free man.
“There was evidence that would have exonerated Mr. Carnes that the police never turned over to the defendant’s lawyer at trial,” Gipson said.
Court transcripts from November showed a Kansas City Police Department report was withheld and never made known to the defense team, that contained pertinent and exculpatory evidence, including information from a confidential informant.
“There is no evidence here that the prosecutor hid it, or the police hid it and so it wasn’t unavailable in that sense,” Michael Spillane with the Missouri Attorney General’s office said. “At trial, we had three witnesses who knew Carnes. They knew he had an eye patch because they knew him, they saw the eye patch.”
Back in 2020, a defense attorney and private investigator uncovered new evidence in the case which they say supports Carnes’ innocence. They claim there is a lack of physical evidence and that some court documents were forged with Carnes’ signature.
Last year, the state’s highest court appointed a special judge to review the case. Judge William Hickle, the special master appointed to the case, filed a 100-plus page report that focused on the factual findings of the case. In January, the Supreme Court refused to immediately release Carnes and instead said they would expedite the case.
“They should send the case back to Jackson County and the prosecutor will decide whether they have the evidence to retry which I think it’s pretty clear they don’t, so we’re pretty confident that if the court rules in our favor that Mr. Carnes will be free,” Gipson said.
Carnes’ moth Eve Moffatt listened inside the courtroom Wednesday as the defense attorney fought for her son’s freedom.
“I never dreamed it would get this far to the Supreme Court,” Moffatt said. “I’m his mother and I believe he is innocent.”
She said she’s keeping the faith her son will be released from his life sentence in the coming months.
“I pray to God that he’ll be released so he can come home,” Moffatt said.
During the hearing, the judges spent more time questioning the state than Carnes’ defense. There’s no timeline on when the Missouri Supreme Court could release its decision but Carnes’ lawyer expects it to be soon since the judges decided to expedite the case.