East Texan set for exoneration in wrongful homicide conviction
Nov. 19, 2012 at 11 p.m.
After more than 15 years behind bars, an East Texas man is set to be released from prison following the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that he was wrongfully convicted of a triple homicide in Shelby County.
Gena Bunn, an attorney with the Holmes and Moore law firm of Longview, represented Kenneth Boyd Jr., of Center in his appeal, overturning a life sentence that was handed to him in 1999. He spent two years before then, after being charged in the 1997 homicides.
"He was found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison despite the fact that there was no physical evidence linking him or any of his co-defendants to the murders," Bunn said.
Shelby County District Attorney Ken Florence agreed to allow Boyd out of jail on a personal recognizance bond. He was expected to be released late Monday afternoon.
Florence reopened the investigation after Bunn filed the appeal in April. Bunn said it is possible the case against Boyd could be dropped completely.
Boyd was convicted in 1999 of the April 1997, murders of Keith Moore, 25, Christy Calhoun, 13, and Brian Keith Brooks, 26.
Bunn said none of the weapons linked to Boyd matched evidence found at the scene; none of the fingerprints recovered at the crime scene matched Boyd; a search of his car did not reveal any evidence tying him to the crime; there was no eyewitness testimony identifying him as the shooter; and Boyd passed a polygraph exam conducted after he became a suspect in the case.
The state's case in 1999 consisted "essentially of a pair of jailhouse snitches who testified that Boyd confessed to them," Bunn said. Both of those people have since recanted their testimony, she said. A few other witnesses - "many, if not all of whom, were high on crack cocaine or other substances" - also testified they saw Boyd about two and a half miles from the crime scene on the night of the murders, she added.
Bunn was appointed to the case two years ago.
"Seeing it and getting more and more involved in the case, it was striking and troubling to me what a grave injustice this was," Bunn said.
In June, Shelby County 273rd District Court Judge Charles Mitchell found that former Shelby County District Attorney Karren Price had suppressed evidence.
She said other suppressed evidence included letters sent from witnesses to Price contradicting their trial testimony, offense reports indicating a different person was responsible for the murders, and information that another witness had failed a polygraph exam regarding his involvement in the murders and was then offered a deal with the state for his testimony against Boyd.
"He also found that Price had knowingly presented false testimony against Boyd," she said.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on Wednesday that Boyd should be released back to Shelby County.
"The opinion that came out last week gave me a better view of the system," Bunn said. "Even though justice was delayed, he is getting released now. Better late than never."
Boyd's mother suffered a heart attack Thursday, Bunn said. She is in stable condition in a Tyler hospital.
"I worked very hard on this case for the last couple of years but that woman has really stayed on it throughout," Bunn said. "She insisted that Kenny get a lawyer to handle the appeal, and she made sure he did get a lawyer. If it hadn't been for her, these injustices still might not have come to light."
Bunn said when Boyd, who is now in his late 30s, heard the news, he was almost speechless.
"He said, 'I just don't know what to say,'" Bunn said.
Florence was cooperative and expedited the release process, Bunn said.
"He has shown a lot of class in the way he handled the case until now," she said.
Bunn said she hopes the community will be supportive and help Boyd transition smoothly from prison back into society.
"I think for somebody who's been in prison for 15 years for a crime that I believe he did not commit, then to come out into free world, he's going to have a lot of challenges," Bunn said. "I hope the community can help him."