Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Colorado: New trial ordered in 1991 murders

New evidence has come to light in the case of Tim Kennedy, who is serving 50 years for the 1991 murders of Jennifer Carpenter and her boyfriend, Steve Staskiewicz

An El Paso County judge has ordered a new trial for a man convicted of double homicide, saying that DNA and other newly discovered evidence could acquit him. Tim Kennedy, 52, was convicted in 1997 and sentenced to 50 years for the murders of Jennifer Carpenter, 15, and her boyfriend, Steve Staskiewicz, 37. "The case starts over now, so we will be preparing for trial if the DA wants to proceed. That remains to be seen," said Kennedy's attorney, John Dicke.

Prosecutors hadn't had a chance to review District Judge Thomas Kane's ruling Thursday afternoon, said Shelly LaGrill, executive assistant for the El Paso County District Attorney's Office. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment."

Carpenter and Staskiewicz were shot in 1991 in their Colorado Springs trailer while hiding from her former housemate, Rebecca Corkins, and Corkins' boyfriend, Charles Stroud. Carpenter feared that the couple would have her killed before she could testify against them in their trial for kidnapping, rape and assault on her four months earlier.

In asking for a new trial, Kennedy's attorneys argued that prosecutors hid an important letter from Stroud to Corkins. They also argued that the lawyers who handled Kennedy's trial defense didn't interview important witnesses, including one who said Corkins told her about a plot to have a man named Patrick Dudley kill Carpenter. Dicke and his partner, Kathleen Carlson, also submitted evidence showing that DNA on items gripped by whoever shot and dragged the victims did not belong to Kennedy.

FBI bullet-lead analysis that helped convince jurors of Kennedy's guilt has since been discredited by the bureau, which has said it "exceed(ed) the limits of science."

"The court finds that the defendant has demonstrated that the newly discovered evidence in the form of the renunciation of bullet-lead analysis, the trace DNA evidence and the 2008 admissions of Corkins are of such character as to probably bring an acquittal verdict," Kane wrote in his 13-page decision issued Wednesday.

Kennedy, a handyman, was a friend of Carpenter and her boyfriend. The shooter used his gun. He loaned the gun and two others to the couple to protect themselves, along with television sets and other items, Dicke said. Stroud and Corkins didn't know Kennedy. And prosecutors have never explained how the pair might have arranged for him to carry out the assassination of his friends.

Witnesses weren't interviewed. Investigators for Kennedy's original defense team, headed by lawyer Kenneth Dresner, failed to interview witnesses who could have bolstered Kennedy's case, Kane said.

"These details could have been corroborated by other available evidence in the case. These details included the use of (a) messenger between Rebecca Corkins and Charles Stroud since they were both in jail, other individuals who were approached by Charles Stroud to perform the murders and specific observations of a visit in jail to Corkins by a former boyfriend, Patrick Dudley," Kane wrote.

Kane agreed with the defense that prosecutors should have made a letter written to Corkins by Stroud available to defense lawyers. In the letter, Stroud threatened Corkins' son if she didn't commit perjury and, Kane said, suggested that he was involved in the murders. Stroud gave the letter to another inmate, Charles Tate, to deliver to Corkins, and Tate turned it over to the prosecutor handling his own case.

Kennedy, who has served 13 years, will be transferred from the Limon Correctional Facility to the El Paso County Jail, Dicke said. "We are going to be asking for a reasonable bond," he said.

Original report here

(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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