Years after being freed from death row, East Texas man fights to clear name
This story is decades long and runs from Dallas, the Texas Monthly, Smith County Texas to New York and back. Now its all about motions for a new trial in the same county (Smith) where the misconduct accused ex DA now judge presides.
The [legal] papers also point to powerful new evidence that officials in Smith County, Texas, withheld favorable evidence to secure Mr. Cook’s 1999 “no contest” plea to murder (a highly unusual plea that required no admission of guilt and permitted Mr. Cook to maintain his factual innocence), and ordered a piece of highly probative evidence destroyed shortly after the state adopted a DNA testing law giving Mr. Cook the ability to request testing of the item for the purpose of securing his full legal exoneration.
In light of this evidence, the Innocence Project has filed a motion before Smith County District Judge Christi Kennedy asking that she recuse herself from the case because of her close relationships with several of the prosecutors and judges who are alleged to have committed misconduct against Mr. Cook over the course of 38 years, three capital murder trials, and in the legal proceedings surrounding Mr. Cook’s no contest plea. One of those officials, former elected Smith County District Attorney Jack Skeen, led the prosecution team seeking Mr. Cook’s execution for more than 15 years; Skeen is now a judge on the same Smith County District Court as Judge Kennedy, which consists of only four judges. The motion notes that judges in Texas and nationally regularly recuse themselves or are ordered to be recused from such cases, given the inherent difficulty in fairly resolving allegations of a fellow judicial colleague’s misconduct.
Another news article going further in the Innocence Projects filing in this case.