Kerry Max Cook
Date of Crime: June 10, 1977
Kerry Max Cook was sentenced to death for the murder of
Linda Jo Edwards, a 21-year-old secretary. Edwards was a college
student who was having an affair with her married professor. Cook was
arrested in a club where he worked as a bartender. The club was
chiefly known as a gay bar, and police theorized that Cook was a degenerate
homosexual who hated women.
Cook was convicted because: (1) A single fingerprint found on the
outside of a sliding glass door of Edward's apartment was identified as
Cook's. Cook had once been in Edwards' apartment, but a fingerprint
expert testified that the print was 12 hours old at the time Edwards' body
was found, placing him in the apartment at the time of the murder.
This testimony went unquestioned. (2) The victim's roommate testified
that she had seen Cook in Edwards' apartment, around the time of the murder.
(3) A jailhouse informant testified that he heard Cook confess to the crime.
At trial, the prosecutor branded Cook a “little pervert,” telling the jury,
“I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't eat [the victim's] body parts.”
At sentencing, Dr. James Grigson, who had helped send more than 100
defendants to death row, testified that Cook had an antisocial personality
disorder, virtually assuring that he would kill again.
Later all the trial evidence was discredited because: (1) The
fingerprint expert admitted that it is impossible to date a fingerprint. He
said that prosecutors pressured him to give false testimony. (2) It
was learned that the victim's roommate had originally said she saw Edwards'
professor in her apartment rather than Cook. (3) The jailhouse
informant recanted his testimony that he heard Cook confess.
The state's highest court threw out Cook's conviction, ruling that the
state's “illicit manipulation of the evidence permeated the entire
investigation of the murder” and that prosecutors had “gained a conviction
based on fraud and ignored its own duty to seek the truth.” Cook was
freed in Nov. 1997, but only after pleading no contest to a time-served
sentence. Cook spent nearly 20 years in prison, most of them on death
row. After his release Cook married and had a son he named Kerry
Justice, saying, “After 23 years, Justice has finally arrived.”
Cook has written a 2007 book about his ordeal entitled
Chasing Justice. The book notes that Cook was helped by
Centurion Ministries, and that its founder went on a retreat to question his
faith in God after attending one of Cook's trials. One is hardly
surprised, as the book relates one of the most harrowing tales of corrupt
prosecution ever written. [10/05]
Center on Wrongful Convictions, The
Victims of the State,
Northeast Texas Cases,
False Fingerprint Evidence