SPRINGFIELD — This type of court order helped overturn Brad Jennings’ murder conviction.
Jennings is currently in prison, as he was convicted of the 2006 murder of his wife Lisa Jennings.
The Writ of Habeas Corpus is a petition against an agency holding someone in custody to show a valid reason for being detained.
In this case, the agency is the prison Jennings is currently in, and the reason would be due to suppressed evidence in his trial. The judge granted Jennings Habeas Corpus.
KOLR10 spoke to Defense Attorney Adam Woody, who says this type of court order was Jennings last ditch effort to try and prove his innocence.
“Brad Jennings from my understanding had exhausted all of his appeals. This Writ of Habeas Corpus was his last resort,” Woody says.
Woody says it is exceedingly rare for cases to be overturned on Writs of Habeas Corpus, as there are a couple of things needed to do so.
“Essentially they have to establish that there is newly discovered evidence that was not heard or known of to the parties during the last trial,” explains Woody. “Not only that, but they would have to establish that it undermines the confidence in the jury’s verdict.”
That means the jury’s decision could have been vastly different with the inclusion of that crucial piece of evidence: the robe that Brad Jennings wore the night of his wife’s death.
“If the jury had heard that specific piece of evidence, it could have changed the result,” says Woody.
That presentation of that bath robe would have been important because it was never washed after the death of Jennings’ wife. That piece of evidence could have poked holes in an argument made against Jennings. The plaintiffs said that even though he didn’t have it on his hands, Jennings could have easily washed up prior to law enforcement arriving.
However, the robe was clean.
“The fact that there was no gunshot residue on that robe completely discredits that argument,” Woody says.
The coroner’s initial ruling of suicide was based on a place gunshot residue was found.
“The deceased had gunshot residue on her right hand, which was her dominant hand,” says Woody.
As a defense attorney, Woody says the robe could have kept Jennings from going to prison in the first place.
“This evidence would have been the most important piece of evidence. It would have most likely, in my mind, changed the verdict in the first trial,” Woody explains.
The judge has told the state to release Brad Jennings, or schedule a new trial within 120 days.
Jennings’ lawyers have requested he be released on bond — but the Attorney General’s office filed a motion late Thursday to stop that hearing set for Friday.
As of this writing, Jennings is a pre-trial inmate in the State of Missouri — simply charged with a crime — but presumed innocent until proven guilty.