MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese urged the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case of an Alabama death row inmate he says could be “very likely actually innocent.”
Bill Kuenzel was convicted of murdering convenience store clerk Linda Jean Offord in 1987. Kuenzel’s attorneys are arguing that prosecutors withheld evidence at trial that would have raised doubts about the truthfulness of plea deal testimony from a roommate who said Kuenzel committed the killing.
Kuenzel’s attorneys had missed a state deadline to raise the new evidence claim and are looking to the nation’s highest court to order a review. Meese, who served as U.S. attorney general under President Ronald Reagan, filed a friend of the court brief saying “basic notions of fairness” require a look at the case.
“This Court should grant review and ensure that the compelling constitutional claims of a man who is very likely actually innocent are resolved on the merits,” attorneys wrote for Meese.
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Kuenzel’s roommate, who had blood on his pants after the murder, testified that Kuenzel committed the crime. Accomplice testimony is required to be corroborated.
Kuenzel lawyer’s said they found out in 2010 that a teenage witness— who testified she saw Kuenzel at the convenience store — had initially told a grand jury that she wasn’t certain it was Kuenzel she saw. Defense lawyers said they’ve also learned that the roommate had a shotgun of the same gauge used to kill Offord and also initially told police that he had been at the convenience store with another friend, not Kuenzel.
Lawyers with the Alabama attorney general’s office have argued the teenage witness only had slight variations in her certainty that Kuenzel was at the store, and there was other testimony and evidence that backed up the guilty verdict.
Lawyers for the state wrote in a brief that Kuenzel had tried to fabricate an alibi for the day of the murder and that he and his roommate had written notes in a notebook that suggested they were trying to coordinate their stories to police.