Lawyers for Kerry Max Cook want court to protect crucial evidence

SMITH COUNTY (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - Attorneys for a man accused in a decades-old murder case argued this morning in the 12th Texas Court of Appeals that although it is important for evidence in their client's case to be tested; they want to make sure that it is properly preserved before tests are performed.

Marc McPeak, an attorney for Kerry Max Cook, also told the three Court of Appeals justices that former Smith County Judge Cynthia Kent should not have been the one to transfer the Cook case to the Smith County 114th District Court from the 241st District Court in 2003, and instead should have referred the case to Administrative Judge John Ovard to re-assign.
"When Judge Jack Skeen Jr. took office, Judge Kent ordered transfer of all cases he had prosecuted out of his court," said Cook attorney Gary Udashen after the hearing this morning. Judge Ovard should have been the one to make that decision, Udashen said.

Cook was arrested in the 1977 homicide of Linda Jo Edwards, and 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.

After initially being convicted of capital murder and placed on death row in 1978, his case was overturned in 1989 because a psychologist had not read Cook his Miranda Rights, thus rendering all information in the psychological interview useless.

Cook was not freed because he remained under indictment of capital murder.

Judge Jack Skeen Jr., who was the Smith County district attorney at that time, tried twice more to convict Cook for Ms. Edwards' murder.

In 1992, Smith County tried the case, but the jury ended deadlocked, so the case stalled. In 1994, Cook was found guilty of capital murder when the state used the testimony of a male witness who had died.

The male witness, who lived in the same apartment complex as Ms. Edwards, said he had an encounter with Cook the night of the murder, according to court documents.

In 1998, as Smith County was moving forward with a fourth trial, Skeen offered Cook a deal that would convict the man of murder but would not require Cook to admit he killed the woman.

In exchange for his plea of no contest, Cook was convicted of murder but sentenced to the time he already served. He was then a free man.

But his attorneys, Marc McPeak and Gary Udashen, say a cloud has hung over their client, 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 a married man with whom she was having an affair at the time of her death.


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