KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Supreme Court has ruled that Keith Carnes, a Kansas City man who says he was wrongly convicted of murder, should be freed.

Carnes was sentenced to life in prison for the 2003 murder of 24-year-old Larry White.

A defense attorney and private investigator uncovered new evidence in the case in 2020. They said the evidence supports Carnes’ claims of innocence and there is a lack of physical evidence tying him to the crime. 

The attorney and investigator also discovered some of the court documents in the case were forged with Carnes’ signature, they said. Two witnesses in the case have also recanted their statements since Carnes was convicted.

Carnes defense attorney also questioned the prosecutor in the original case. Amy McGowen also was involved in prosecuting Ricky Kidd. Kidd was convicted in a double homicide. He was later exonerated after spending 23 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

The Missouri Supreme Court heard arguments in Carnes’ case last month and was able to either grant him a new trial or order his release.

Missouri’s highest court said Carnes met the burden of proof needed to establish “gateway cause and prejudice” claim that the state failed to disclose material evidence, and therefore, Carnes is entitled to “habeas corpus relief,” or release from unlawful detention.

On Tuesday, the court determined Carnes should be released within 30 days unless the state elects to retry him.

Earlier this year, Missouri Attorney General Schmitt filed a motion to fight Carnes’ release. FOX4 reached out to Schmitt’s office, and spokesperson Chris Nuelle issued the following statement:

“In this case, our office defended a conviction obtained by the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the decision to retry this case rests in the hands of the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney.”

The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office issued the following statement Tuesday:

“We are actively reviewing now, and we await any other information the Missouri Supreme Court sends to us.”