William Kuenzel, death row prisoner who sought new trial, dies at 60

William Kuenzel, death row prisoner who sought new trial, dies at 60

The bring about was colon cancer that experienced unfold to his pancreas and liver, said his law firm, David Kochman.

Mr. Kuenzel (pronounced KEN-zel) invested 34 several years on dying row, steadfastly keeping his innocence in the 1987 murder of a comfort keep clerk in Sylacauga, a small city in central Alabama. His legal workforce mentioned the case was tainted by components which includes a shoddy law enforcement investigation, an overzealous prosecutor, concealed evidence and ineffective counsel, together with technicalities that prevented likely exculpatory new evidence from becoming regarded in courtroom.

“Bill may well be the only defendant in the United States on death row who has impressive constitutional statements, going to the heart of his factual innocence, that have never been reviewed at any state or federal court docket at any stage” following his original trial, Kochman explained in a cell phone interview.

The murder trial centered on plea-deal testimony from his roommate and alleged accomplice, Harvey Venn, who was functioning at a textile factory with Mr. Kuenzel. In trade for a lessened sentence, Venn testified that Mr. Kuenzel, then 25, had absent inside of Joe Bob’s Crystal Palace to rob the retail store, and fatally wounded Linda Offord with a shotgun blast.

The jury deliberated for about an hour in 1988 right before convicting Mr. Kuenzel of capital murder, then unanimously recommending he be place to demise.

Extra than two many years later on, Mr. Kuenzel’s legal workforce attained law enforcement notes and grand jury documents that undermined the case of District Legal professional Robert Rumsey, who had acquired a status for winning loss of life penalty convictions. The information uncovered that Venn at first advised law enforcement he was at the comfort retailer with a school friend, not Mr. Kuenzel. They also showed that a important eyewitness who identified Mr. Kuenzel experienced in the beginning informed a grand jury that she “couldn’t definitely see a face” inside of the comfort retail store since it was darkish and raining.

The appeals workforce, led by lawyer David “Duff” Dretzin, also found that Venn had a 16-gauge shotgun like the a single made use of in the killing. They argued that whilst no actual physical evidence pointed to Mr. Kuenzel, his alleged accomplice’s pants had been included with the victim’s blood, which Venn had beforehand said was from a squirrel he experienced been searching.

Regardless of the new proof, Mr. Kuenzel’s attraction struggled to move ahead for the reason that of what his attorneys identified as a “procedural technicality,” an administrative filing deadline that he missed by several months early in the circumstance. In 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit declined to grant a listening to, expressing they were being not persuaded that the new evidence was “of the impressive kind” that would have triumph over the procedural problem.

That check out was hardly shared by Mr. Kuenzel’s lots of supporters, including actor Sam Waterston, who performed a district attorney on “Law & Order” and released a movie arguing for his innocence. Immediately after Mr. Kuenzel appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court docket to evaluation the scenario, three previous district lawyers — Morgenthau of Manhattan, Gil Garcetti of Los Angeles and E. Michael McCann of Milwaukee — submitted a quick in 2013 on his behalf, declaring that the prosecution’s circumstance was “completely eviscerated” by the new proof.

The U.S. Supreme Court docket denied Mr. Kuenzel’s petition with out remark. When he appealed a next time, his petition was backed in a 2016 short filed by Meese, who experienced served as U.S. attorney general throughout the Reagan administration and condemned the Alabama point out procedural policies that blocked Mr. Kuenzel’s appeal, expressing they “contravene fundamental notions of fairness and due process.”

The Supreme Courtroom yet again denied Mr. Kuenzel’s petition devoid of remark. Experienced he not died of most cancers, his law firm claimed, he would have eventually been scheduled for execution.

William Ernest Kuenzel was born in Rockford, Ala., on Jan. 11, 1962. He never ever knew his organic father, but was adopted at age 4 by his stepfather, who served in the Military and deployed to Vietnam, primary Mr. Kuenzel and his mom to move regularly involving army bases, with stops in Ga, Texas and Washington.

Immediately after finishing the eighth grade, Mr. Kuenzel left school to do the job as an automobile mechanic, and served elevate his stepsiblings and cousins whilst getting work opportunities in design and at a cotton mill. He afterwards worked at offshore oil rigs ahead of returning to Alabama, landing a job as a welder right before his murder conviction.

In a more twist to the case, Mr. Kuenzel and his mother pleaded guilty to perjury and bribing a witness following the murder demo finished. Kochman, his lawyer, characterised the episode as “the desperate act of an unsophisticated, heartbroken mother,” saying that immediately after it became obvious Mr. Kuenzel would be despatched to jail, she attempted to spend a witness to say that he had been at the usefulness keep with Venn on the night time of the murder. Mr. Kuenzel was not included in the ploy, in accordance to his lawyers, who said he pleaded responsible as component of a deal that saved his mom out of jail.

Mr. Kuenzel was represented by a general public defender for the duration of the murder scenario, and immediately after his conviction he did not have a law firm until finally 1993, when Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, an Alabama nonprofit, launched the circumstance to Dretzin.

Interviewed for a Vice news short article in 2016, Mr. Kuenzel recalled that Dretzin “told me that he actually considered in me, that he thought I was harmless and that I in no way must have been listed here. This was the initial time any individual experienced at any time claimed that to me.” Following Dretzin died in 2006 pursuing a stroke and automobile incident, the circumstance was taken about by his colleague Kochman.

Though in prison, Mr. Kuenzel handed the GED checks and arrived inside of a few credits of a higher education diploma right before the state of Alabama lower instruction programs on demise row. He also trained as a paralegal, cared for fellow prisoners in hospice and led prayer providers at the rear of bars, serving as a lay chief as a result of the business Kairos Jail Ministries.

His marriages to Faye Fontenot and Jane Campbell ended in divorce. Survivors include things like a son from his 1st marriage, William Jr. two stepbrothers two stepsisters and 3 grandchildren.

Even though awaiting his sentence at the murder demo, Mr. Kuenzel pleaded for justice, in accordance to Vice. “I pray that when a greater court hears my scenario, I will be freed of this hefty stress, which was bestowed on me by the court docket process. Which may possibly consider my everyday living,” he explained, “but not my soul.”

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