We’re counting down the American-Statesman’s 10 biggest stories of 2017.
Our countdown of storylines chosen by Statesman reporters and editors continues through Dec. 31.
Today, we’re at No. 9: The Greg Kelley case
On Aug. 22, Greg Kelley walked out of jail for the first time in three years.
It was not the end of his effort to convince the judicial system that he had been wrongly convicted, but it was a significant step toward freedom.
Kelley’s release capped several dramatic months, starting when the American-Statesman reported in late May that newly elected Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick had reopened the Kelley investigation and confirmed that Kelley’s friend, Johnathan McCarty, was an alternative suspect in the 2013 molestation of a 4-year-old boy at an in-home day care facility where Kelley and McCarty both lived.
Kelley had been convicted in 2014 of super aggravated sexual assault of a child sentenced to 25 years in prison. Over the past three years, his lawyers have fought to get a hearing before appeals courts, saying new information clears Kelley, that their client was failed by a poor investigation by the Cedar Park Police Department and that Kelley’s trial attorneys didn’t represent him adequately. More recently, his appellate lawyer filed court documents seeking to implicate McCarty and another man who might be an alternate suspect.
After a three-day hearing, state District Judge Donna King signed off on $50,000 bond releasing Kelley. The judge took issue with several aspects of the investigation, including that a Cedar Park police detective didn’t corroborate information from the child victim and didn’t speak to McCarty. The judge also cited ineffective assistance from Kelley’s trial attorney.
Four months later, King issued her formal recommendation that Kelley should be found innocent, declaring that had the jury been presented with certain evidence that never made it to trial, “the state would not have been able to prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and a reasonable jury would be obliged to declare him not guilty.”
That recommendation now goes to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which has the final say about whether to overturn Kelley’s conviction.
Highlights of our coverage
May 25: DA reopens child sex assault case
May 31: Kelley’s hope for early prison release ‘has skyrocketed’
June 22: Super aggravated assault charge sealed Kelley’s fate
Aug. 3: Texas Ranger blasts Cedar Park police work
Aug. 4: Justice system failed in Kelley case, DA says
Aug. 17: Texas Ranger affidavit contradicts Kelley’s statements
Aug. 22: Judge releases Kelley from custody
Dec. 18: Kelley should be found innocent, judge rules
Previously in our countdown of Austin’s 10 biggest stories of 2017:
No. 10: Secretive search for Austin city manager