SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A circuit judge's comments and rulings biased a jury against a white supremacist pastor accused of kidnapping six of his grandchildren and bringing them to the Ozarks, an appeals attorney said.
As a result, the Rev. Gordon Winrod should have his sentence set aside and be given a new trial, Attorney Thomas Carver told the Southern District Missouri Court of Appeals Tuesday.
Winrod, long known for his hatred of non-whites, Jews and the government, is serving 30 years in prison after being convicted of taking his grandchildren from their fathers' homes in North Dakota and keeping them at his farm near Gainesville.
Police raided the farm in May 2000, arresting Winrod and then working for four days to talk the children -- then ages 9 to 16 -- into surrendering. Authorities argued Winrod brought the children to his farm because he wanted to indoctrinate them with his beliefs.
Winrod said he thought they were being abused. Circuit Judge William Mauer wouldn't allow the accusations to be an issue during the trial because they were never proven -- a point Carver raised in his appeal.
Assistant Attorney General Karen Kramer, however, said Mauer acted fairly and correctly throughout the trial. Winrod failed himself by choosing to act as his own attorney and refusing the help of court-appointed counsel, she said.
There was no indication when the three-judge panel might rule.
While Carver and Kramer differed in their opinions of the trial, both agreed that it was rarely a good idea for people to act as their own attorney if they are unfamiliar with trial law.
Carver said he was hired by Winrod's family to file the appeal. Winrod, 74, has played no role in it and was not in court Tuesday.
During his 20 minutes before the appeals court, Carver said he believed Mauer also was wrong for not advising Winrod on how to properly subpoena out-of-state witnesses.
Winrod incorrectly filed a writ of habeas corpus in hopes of forcing relatives in North Dakota to testify at his Ozark County trial. His request was denied.