Grant Billy Kuenzel the right to a new trial so he can present the evidence which was unlawfully withheld by the prosecution at his original trial.
This petition had 1,729 supporters
If you were accused of a crime you didn't commit, wouldn't you expect a fair trial where all the evidence would be presented to a jury. Wouldn't you want access to effective legal representation to help you prove your innocence?
United States law dictates that defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond all reasonable doubt and that the burden of proof is on the prosecution.
On September 23rd, 1988, following a capital murder trial which lasted just a day and a half, William “Billy” Kuenzel was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of convenience store clerk Linda Jean Offord during an attempted robbery in November 1987. This was a crime he had no link to other than being the roommate of Harvey Venn, a self confessed accomplice. There was no physical evidence linking Billy to this tragic crime and no motive for robbery.
Billy is my friend and has been on Death Row at Holman Correctional Facility, Alabama for over 25 years. His story is a classic illustration of how the United States Justice system is fatally flawed. There is no greater punishment than the Death Penalty and there is no greater injustice than the execution of an innocent man. Whether you are for or against capital punishment, I would ask you to please take a few minutes to consider Billy's story and sign this petition to prevent him from becoming the victim of another man's crime.
The trial was littered with several constitutional violations and Billy's conviction was largely based on the blame shifting testimony of Harvey Venn whose credibility as a witness raises serious concerns.
Venn originally admitted he had been at the store with another man, David Pope.
He stated that Billy had been at home during the time of the incident.
He had motive for robbery, being continuously in debt and needing substantial funds for an upcoming court case.
He had the victim's blood on his clothes which he initially tried to pass off as paint and then the blood of a squirrel.
Several witnesses placed him at the store with another man. No one identified this man as Billy and no witness was ever shown a photograph of David Pope and asked if he was the man they saw.
The murder weapon was a .16 gauge shotgun. Venn claimed the gun in his possession was a .12 gauge. This turned out to be a lie and was in fact, a .16 gauge.
During his time in custody, Harvey Venn was offered a plea bargain. After changing his statement four times, he accepted the offer in return for an 8-10 year sentence and pointed the finger instead at Billy.
During the trial Billy was represented by an inexperienced state appointed lawyer who was grossly unprepared, spending a mere eight hours with his client prior to trial. He unwisely believed the prosecution had no real case against Billy and they assured him that all the evidence gathered during the investigagtion had been handed over to the court. This was not true.
Billy has spent over a quarter of a century of his life in one of the most notorious prisons in the United States during which time he and his pro bono legal team have diligently gathered facts and information to support his unwavering and consistent claim of innocence. There is overwhelming evidence which not only substantiates this claim but also exposes the fact that key evidence was intentionally withheld by the prosecution in order to gain a conviction.
In 2010 it was finally revealed that the prosecution had withheld a number of documents pertaining to the case which if disclosed to the defence at the time, would have allowed them to undermine the prosecution and in all likelihood would have led to an acquital.
Since he has been incarcerated, Billy has tragically lost both his parents and missed out on the upbringing of his son and the birth of his granddaughter. These are things that the State can never make up for but they can overturn a potentially fatal ruling.
The United States has the highest number of wrongful convictions due to factors which include:
Inadequate legal representation.
Police and prosecutorial misconduct
Suppression and/or misinterpretation of mitigating evidence
All of these factors apply to Billy's case. He was a convenient scapegoat without the adequate means to defend himself against a prosecution whose campaign to win a murder trial was more important than the truth.
In February this year, a successive petition for a new trial to present all the evidence has been denied because, according to the state the original appeal was filed too late. Neither the State or Federal courts seem willing or prepared to review this new evidence, dismissing Billy's case as being 'time barred'.
It is unfathomable to think that Billy could lose his life simply due to a "legal technicality”.
Billy is a kind, warmhearted, generous and gentle man who is a liaison for catholic services at Holman. In 2003 he helped to set up a hospice for sick and dying Death Row inmates which is still in use today. Understandably though, prison life has not been easy. During one of our earliest correspondences, Billy told me "I have found it hard to talk about myself a lot as I have led such a humdrum life here. When you tell people that you have been wrongly convicted, most just roll their eyes and think all inmates say that, so I gave up trying to convince most and just let the facts speak.”
All Billy has ever asked for is a fair constitutional trial. Please support this cause. An innocent man's life is at stake.
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A message to supporters from Billy's friend Olivier Pagni
"Bill and I started writing each other 9 years ago, and have been developing over time a wonderful, healthy friendship. He is an outstanding man, kind, thoughtful, and selfless. I am also thankful for having had the privilege of paying him several visits at Holman prison ; seeing him face to face further strengthened our friendship.
Having studied the facts of the case, I am convinced that Bill is not guilty of the murder he has been convicted of. I am saddened by the injustice that he is victim of, and am amazed by the strength of character he has shown in trying to have a positive impact on others inspite of the horror of what he is going through.
I would like to encourage you to read the facts of this case on www.alabamainjustice.com, and sign this petition to show your support for Bill.
Let us together do our best to see Bill be granted a new, fair trial, and avoid seeing an innocent man executed.
Thank you for your time and consideration."
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