KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man who was freed from prison last year after his murder conviction was set aside alleges in a lawsuit that Kansas City police framed him in the killing.
Keith Carnes, 53, was released from prison in April 2022 after serving 18 years of a life sentence for first-degree murder and armed criminal action.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, Carnes alleges police and former Jackson County assistant prosecutor Amy McGowan coerced witnesses and issued fraudulent reports that led to his conviction in the 2003 shooting death of 24-year-old Larry White, in a Kansas City parking garage.
The Kansas City police department said it does not generally respond to ongoing lawsuits “to ensure fairness to all involved.”
The Missouri Supreme Court set aside Carnes’ conviction in 2022, in part because because an eyewitness account from a confidential informant that might have led to his exoneration was not given to Carnes’ defense team.
The Jackson County Prosecutor’s office said it would not retrry Carnes because although its case review did not establish Carnes’ innocence, there was insufficient evidence to convict him a second time.
In the lawsuit, Carnes’ attorneys said a feared Kansas City drug dealer killed White in a dispute over territory and that officers who struggled to find witnesses decided to “pin” the murder on Carnes.
Two witnesses who identified Carnes as the killer recanted their testimony in 2014, alleging police and prosecutors pressured them to name Carnes as the shooter.
“The Kansas City police practices described in this lawsuit — fabricating evidence to secure convictions and propel officers’ own careers forward — amount to corruption,” one of Carnes’ attorneys, Locke Bowman, said in a statement.
One of the witnesses testified in 2021 that she recanted her original testimony after threats from Carnes’ supporters. The second witness testified at the same hearing that she could no longer remember the night of the murder clearly.
Prosecutors have said case evidence was “tainted from all directions.”
Two other Kansas City area men who were exonerated in recent years after serving years in prison for murders they did not commit have also sued the Kansas City police department. Kevin Strickland, who spent more than 40 years in prison; and Ricky Kidd, who served nearly 25, each sued the department over its investigations.
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