Man convicted of murder gets another chance in court

Tuesday, August 5, 2008 | 2:03 p.m. CDT

CAPE GIRARDEAU - Fourteen years to the day after Joshua Kezer went to prison for murder, a judge ruled he deserves another day in court.

Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan on Monday ordered an evidentiary hearing for Kezer. The hearing will be Dec. 2 and 3 in Jefferson City.

"It'll be like a trial," Kezer's attorney, Charles Weiss, said. "We will present witnesses and evidence."

Callahan granted the hearing after both Weiss and lawyers from the Missouri State Attorney General's office described their sides of the case during a review.

"I'm happy. It's one step closer to the truth," Kezer said in a prepared statement.

Kezer claims he was wrongly convicted for the 1992 killing of Angela Lawless in the southeast Missouri town of Benton. Kezer, who is now 33, was sentenced to 60 years. He is imprisoned at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter reopened the investigation in 2006, believing other people may have been involved. On Monday, he said the case against Kezer has fallen apart.

Physical evidence found at the crime scene, including fingerprints, blood typing and DNA, never matched Kezer. Recently, Callahan granted a motion ordering the Missouri State Highway Patrol to enter the DNA profiles into CODIS, the database for convicted felons.

Meanwhile, Mark T. Abbott, whose testimony placed Kezer near the crime scene, said in a letter to the Southeast Missourian newspaper that he might have identified the wrong man when he picked Kezer out of a photo lineup.

Several witnesses have since given written statements to Kezer's attorneys saying others have confessed to the murder.

"There are people on both sides of the fence that don't want this case reopened," Walter said.

The attorney general's office opposed the evidentiary hearing, arguing in a motion that it was not necessary because much of the evidence exculpating Kezer consisted of hearsay.


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