Prosecutors announced Friday that they won’t seek to retry a Kansas City man after the Missouri Supreme Court overturned his conviction because the case is “tainted from all directions.”
The Jackson County prosecutor’s office said in a statement that there is insufficient evidence to prove that Keith Carnes fatally shot a rival drug dealer, 24-year-old Larry White, in 2003 in a Kansas City parking garage.
The announcement came just three days after the Missouri Supreme Court set aside Carnes’ first-degree murder and armed criminal action convictions, ordering him to be released from prison within 30 days unless prosecutors move to retry him.
One issue was that a special master who reviewed the case found that Kansas City police did not give Carnes’ original defense team a report from a confidential informant that might have led to his exoneration.
Also, two witnesses who identified Carnes as the killer recanted their testimony in 2014, saying they had been pressured by police and Jackson County prosecutors.
Another witness also said police had intimidated him when they interviewed him about the night of the killing. He said White had an argument with another drug dealer — not Carnes — and warned the other man not to come back to his property shortly before the killing.
But in a twist to the case, one of the witnesses testified last year that her original testimony was correct and said she had recanted because of threats from Carnes’ supporters.
“Eyewitness testimony is thrown into question with recantations, including a recantation of a recantation,” the prosecutor’s office said in the statement. “We also do not have physical evidence to corroborate certain eyewitness accounts.”
The statement was highly critical of Carnes supporters, alleging witnesses were pressured to recant or change their testimony.
“In short, the evidence today in Carnes case is tainted from all directions,” the statement said.
The statement stressed that the case remains under investigation, adding that witnesses indicated that there was a second person present when White was killed. The statement said law enforcement would like that person’s identify.
“We will continue to fight for justice for Mr. White and this community,” the statement said, adding that the family continues to believe Carnes was one of the killers.