Haida must decide whether to give another defendant convicted of murder in Cook's court a new trial

By The Madison County Record | Aug 13, 2014


St. Clair County Circuit Judge Robert Haida, who ordered new trials for two murder suspects due to the heroin addiction of former judge Michael Cook, must decide whether to grant yet another new trial.

Haida plans an Oct. 16 conference on a petition that prisoner Kenny Wicks filed in March to set aside his conviction.

Wicks’s trial lawyer, Paul Storment, filed an affidavit with the petition swearing that he would have moved to substitute Cook for cause if he had known Cook was under federal investigation or was addicted to heroin.

Jurors convicted Wicks in January of last year, finding he shot and killed James Rodgers in the course of an armed robbery.

Storment moved last February for a directed verdict of not guilty or a new trial.

“The state offered only the testimony of two accomplices whose testimony should be received by the trier of fact with suspicion and caution,” Storment wrote.

He wrote that witness Dontez Crumble gave three inconsistent accounts of events.

“For his testimony he may serve as little as two years and the felony murder charges will be dismissed,” Storment wrote.

According to Storment, witness Demond Eckford did not witness the shooting.

Storment also wrote that Cook erred in showing video of Wicks’s interrogation.

“No shell casings or gun was found,” Storment wrote.

He wrote that Cook erred in allowing testimony from jail inmate Kenneth Joffre, arguing that Joffre’s record established strong prejudice against black people.

On April 2, 2013, the date of sentencing, Wicks wrote to Cook that he cooperated with authorities “because I was innocent and I knew that I would be safe.”

“I truly believe that the scales of justice have been tipped in an unbelievable way to convict me.”

Cook denied his motion for directed verdict or new trial, and he imposed a 45 year sentence.

Wicks appealed the decision to Fifth District appellate judges in Mount Vernon.

On May 22, 2013, federal agents arrested Cook on charges that he possessed heroin and used it while possessing firearms.

Last October, Haida granted new trials to murder suspects Gregory Muse and William Cosby, after they pleaded that Cook’s addiction deprived them of fair trials.

This March 12, Storment asked the Fifth District to hold Wicks’s appeal in abeyance while Wicks pursued relief in St. Clair County circuit court.

On March 28, Storment and defense lawyer Gilbert Sison of Clayton, Mo., petitioned in circuit court to set aside the conviction and hold a new trial.

They wrote that state’s attorney Brendan Kelly knew of the Cook investigation on Jan. 21, 2013, and should have disclosed it to Wicks.

On April 5, Fifth District judges agreed to hold the appeal in abeyance.

Kelly assistant Judith Dalan moved to dismiss the new trial petition on June 19, writing that Wicks didn’t allege that Cook was prejudiced or that he received anything other than a fair trial and sentence.

“There exists nothing in the record of the case that indicates that Judge Michael Cook made rulings improperly prejudicial to petitioner, was not paying attention during any of the proceedings, or was not ruling properly,” she wrote.

There was no evidence that Cook was aware of the investigation, she wrote.

Haida dismissed her motion on July 24, and ordered her to answer Wicks’s petition.

Kelly meanwhile had asked Fifth District judges to set the appeal on a normal schedule, but they ruled on July 28 that they would continue holding it in abeyance.

On Aug. 5, Haida set a Sept. 26 deadline for Dalan to answer Wicks’s petition.

He set a status conference Oct. 16.

Muse’s new trial did not change his result. After a bench trial, Haida found him guilty.

Haida has set Cosby’s trial to start on Sept. 8.

More News

The Record Network