Marc McPeak and Gary Udashen, attorneys for Kerry Max Cook, said after their client responded to a District Attorney’s order for DNA testing in December, that the state then responded with “a piece of creatively fashioned fiction, replete with misdirection, prevarication and fantasy” about the facts of Cook’s case. The defense attorneys filed a motion last week to strike the district attorney’s response.
But Mike West, Smith County assistant district attorney, has fired a return volley at the Cook camp, saying that the motion to strike is “frivolous ... and has even less merit than his previous desperate and obvious attempts to stall these proceedings.”
Cook, arrested in the 1977 homicide of Linda Jo Edwards, has been free since 1998. He was 19 years old at the time of the arrest, according to his website. Police found Ms. Edwards’ body June 10, 1977, in her apartment on Old Bullard Road. She was beaten in the head with a plaster statue, stabbed in the throat, chest and back more than 25 times and sexually mutilated.
A second trial in 1992 ended in a jury deadlock after the panel found one of Ms. Edwards’ stockings that had been stuck in the leg of her jeans for 15 years.
Cook, who was once 11 days from execution, was released on bond in November 1997. The day jury selection was set to start in his fourth capital murder trial, he pleaded no contest for time served and walked free.
McPeak and Udashen say a cloud has hung over their client since then, and they now want him exonerated. They said in a February filing that additional biological evidence found in Ms. Edwards’ underwear matched the DNA profile of another man with whom she was having an affair at the time of her death.
John Ovard, presiding judge of the First Administrative Judicial Region, ruled April 9 in the 114th Smith County District Court that Judge Christi Kennedy did not have to recuse herself in the Cook case after hearing arguments from McPeak and Udashen, along with prosecutors.
McPeak and Udashen argued that Judge Kennedy could not be fair or impartial on any rulings she might make in the Cook case because some of her colleagues on the bench and their families were involved in Cook’s prosecution in his previous trials.
His attorneys said Cook’s December response to the District Attorney’s Office order for DNA
McPeak and Udashen also cited in the motion to strike that the District Attorney’s Office has never responded to the question of why officials allowed retired Tyler police detective Eddie Clark to keep the murder weapon and a slide with Cook’s hair on it.
“It is certainly troublesome that Detective Clark would take these items into his personal possession and allegedly store them in his attic,” the motion stated.
West said in his Jan. 10 filing that, “There would be no reason for Mr. Clark to engage in evidence tampering as (he) has been slanderously accused of by the defendant’s attorneys. Mr. (McPeak) is clearly willing to make the most inaccurate and disingenuous claims he can in order to inject additional delay into this case.”