by Diane Fanning
When Kerry Max Cook sat down beside me at the Best Southwest Bookfest south of Dallas last week, I felt a little spooked. I was on the panel because of the role one of my books played in obtaining a new trial for Julie Rea Harper who spent a couple of years in prison after her wrongful conviction in the murder of her son. Now sitting next to me was a man who sat on Death Row in Texas for more than twenty years for a crime he did not commit. How did he survive? How could anyone survive?
At first, it was like sitting next to a figment of my imagination or a ghost from a haunted house. I was afraid to reach out and touch him as if that might make him disappear into thin air. Nonetheless, he seemed so normal. So warm. So human. What core of inner strength did he possess to make that possible?
No one can date fingerprints and that was not the only dishonest testimony. The victim’s roommate told police that the man in Linda's room that night had silvery hair that feathered over his ears. At the time Kerry's hair was brown and to his shoulders. On the witness stand, however, she identified Kerry as the man she saw.
"Shyster” Jackson, facing a second-degree murder charge, testified that Kerry confessed the murder to him.
When Jackson recanted in 1979, he admitted the prosecutors showed him the crime-scene photos to help him create the story of the “confession.” His charge was reduced to involuntary manslaughter and time served.
Kerry was found guilty and sentenced to Death. Investigating Kerry’s case, Jim McCloskey of Centurion Ministries and David Hanners, a reporter for the Dallas Morning News uncovered the prosecutorial misconduct that lead to Kerry's conviction.
When Kerry finally got a new trial on these grounds, in 1992, the judge allowed the state to use tainted evidence but forbade the defense from presenting testimony to discredit that evidence. That jury could not reach a decision.
Wnew trial, in 1994, was even worse. This time, the respected co-founder of the FBI's Behavioral Science Unit, Robert K. Ressler, was not allowed to testify as an expert witness for the defense to counteract unscientific criminal profiling evidence presented by the state’s "expert."