Experts: Handwriting on report in Kezer case was Scott City officer's

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Three handwriting experts have determined a key document in the reopened case of convicted murderer Joshua C. Kezer was indeed written and signed by former Scott City officer Bobby Wooten.

The document is at the center of an investigation that has called into question the conviction of Kezer, who was blamed for the 1992 murder of Angela Mischelle Lawless based on testimony of inmates who later recanted their stories.

The report has surfaced as a key issue in the wrongful conviction suit attorney Charlie Weiss filed on behalf of Kezer because it casts doubt on the credibility of a witness who placed Kezer near the crime scene and may not have been disclosed to the defense before trial.

The attorney general's office questioned the authenticity of Wooten's signature on the report after Wooten told their investigator he did not believe he'd signed the document.

The results of the handwriting analysis performed on the document were announced by state's attorney Michael Spillane at a case review Tuesday in Cole County Circuit Court, Weiss said.

Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter wasn't surprised. "We knew what we had, we knew we had an original document," Walter said.

Walter's investigator said he found the report in a box at the Scott County Sheriff's Department when he reopened the case in 2006. The report, he said, was clipped inside a notebook belonging to one of the deputies who worked on the original investigation.

Trial attorneys for Kezer said they had never seen the report, and that it could have affected the outcome of the case.

Wooten at first told Walter he remembered turning the report over to Scott County investigators and signed a statement for Weiss acknowledging it was his signature.

Cole County Circuit Judge Richard G. Callahan also agreed Tuesday to accept an amended motion requesting that bullets in the homicide case be compared with those in a New Madrid County capital murder case.

When the state argued that it hesitated to break the chain of custody in a death-penalty case by releasing the bullets to Scott County, the parties agreed that Walter could bring an expert to highway patrol headquarters to examine the bullets for comparison purposes.

A hearing still has not been set in the case, but Weiss said he's fairly confident they will get one.

Callahan asked both attorneys to meet at 1 p.m. Aug. 4 to discuss the case at length.

335-6611, extension 245

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