A former Texas death row inmate says he wants to tear up an agreement that dismissed his murder charge while protecting prosecutors in his case from any findings of misconduct.
Criminal court records show Kerry Max Cook fired his legal team last week after a judge dropped the charge against him in the 1977 slaying of a 21-year-old woman in the East Texas town of Tyler. Cook was released from prison in 1999.
In a Facebook post by Cook that was included in court records submitted by prosecutors, he criticizes lawyers for the New York-based Innocence Project and the Innocence Project of Texas, saying that he never approved an agreement that would absolve prosecutors of wrongdoing.
He said he was "humiliated" by comments from one of his attorneys, Gary Udashen, praising the cooperation of Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham.
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"I could go in for pages and pages of everything done over my objections, but the point is, I no longer trust that you are not too tied in a too friendly relationship with Matt Bingham," Cook wrote in comments directed to Udashen.
Bingham did not return a call for comment and Udashen deferred comment to the Innocence Project, which said in a statement that it hopes whatever action Cook takes results in his exoneration.
"It is our firm belief that Kerry is innocent of this murder and that he has finally received justice and a recognition from Smith County that his prosecution was based on false testimony and he never had a fair trial," the statement read.
While the judge last week threw out the murder charge, the 60-year-old Cook still seeks a full exoneration and a hearing is scheduled for June 29 to determine innocence. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals needs to approve any exoneration. If that's granted, Cook could be eligible for more than $3 million in compensation from the state, plus additional benefits, for the 20 years he was imprisoned, The Dallas Morning News has reported.
Cook has said he doesn't have the money for an attorney and likely will represent himself in future hearings.
Cook's rights were violated, in part by the presentation of false testimony by a witness called at his original trial, according to the judge's order last week. Prosecutors at the time of Linda Jo Edwards' killing also suppressed a taped interview with a manager at the apartment complex where Edwards lived that would have helped Cook's defense, the order said.
Attorneys representing Cook had argued that six rounds of DNA testing from 1999 to 2015 failed to identify any evidence proving he was at the scene of the crime.
Cook was convicted in 1978 in the slaying and was sentenced to death. Cook maintained his innocence and the verdict was overturned, but legal wrangling continued for decades.
The DNA testing confirmed the presence of semen found in Edwards' underwear from her boss and former lover whose extramarital affair with Edwards ended badly, the lawyers contend.
Although the man was considered a longtime suspect in the case, he's never been charged in relation to the crime.