SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The Missouri Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a white supremacist pastor accused of kidnapping six of his grandchildren and bringing them to the Ozarks.
In an unsigned opinion, a three-judge panel of the court's Southern District on Thursday ruled that there was no validity to an appeals attorney's argument that a judge's comments and rulings biased the jury against the Rev. Gordon Winrod during his trial.
Thomas Carver, the attorney who filed the appeal, said the court is entitled to its opinion of how the judge's comments affected jurors. But he believes another court may interpret the comments differently.
"I was disappointed obviously in the result, but I'm sure we'll be filing a petition for rehearing and if that doesn't work out, we'll be filing an application to transfer to the Missouri Supreme Court," he said.
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.
'The abducted children'
Carver also cited Mauer's reference to Winrod's grandchildren as "the abducted children" when the judge spoke to prospective jurors during jury selection.
And when a juror asked Mauer, "Did I hear you right earlier, the children would not testify?," the judge replied, "No, what I said was the state had declined to produce the children to protect them from further harm."
The comments planted the notion in jurors' minds that the children had been harmed and that Winrod was guilty, Carver argued.
However, the Court of Appeals ruled that "there was no dispute that the children had been abducted from their homes in North Dakota... Therefore, the trial court made only a truthful comment in referring to the children as 'abducted.'"
Carver plans to file a petition for a rehearing fairly soon, he said.
"Hopefully, they'll rethink their position," Carver said.