Fifth District rejects murderer's plea for post-conviction relief

By John Breslin | Jan 21, 2019

MOUNT VERNON -- A convicted murderer has failed in his appeal for post conviction relief and a reduction of his 20-year sentence.

Kevin Edwards, who remains in prison for the 1999 murder of his estranged wife's new partner, argued he received ineffective counsel during his jury trial.

But the Illinois Fifth District Appellate Court rejected his argument and affirmed the decision by former judge John Baricevic of the St. Clair County Circuit Court.

In the appellate court's decision filed earlier this month, written by Justice James Moore, the "trial court did not err when it dismissed the defendant’s amended successive petition for post-conviction relief at the second stage of proceedings, because the defendant failed to make a substantial showing that he received ineffective assistance of counsel during his trial." Justices David Overstreet and Thomas Welch concurred

Edwards was convicted in 2002 of the first-degree murder of Clarence Jordan Jr., the "lover" of the defendant's wife.

His lawyers argued mitigating factors, including that the defendant was overcome by "sudden and intense passion." and, therefore, it was not first-degree murder.  The jury did not agree even as it was allowed to decide whether it was second-degree murder or self-defense.

Details of the crime were revealed in the appellate court judgment, including that Edwards entered his estranged wife's apartment using his own key. He had bought a gun some months beforehand and said he only wanted to store the gun in the apartment as his parents had told him they did not want it in their home.

"He testified that when he heard a noise behind the closed door of the master bedroom, he thought someone had broken into the apartment, so he took the rifle, which he testified he knew was loaded, to investigate," Moore wrote. "He testified that when he found his estranged wife in the room with Jordan, both naked, he fired the rifle. He testified that it was not an accident but the result of many emotions."

Edwards alleged he did not aim the rifle or mean to kill Jordan. However, his wife testified that, prior to killing Jordan, he stated that her sister had told him she was having an affair, and immediately after turned and fatally shot the victim. He did not help Jordan following the shooting.

"Based upon the evidence adduced at trial, that the jury reasonably could have rejected the defendant’s version of the night in question and could have found him guilty of first-degree murder for the killing of Jordan," Moore wrote.

"Moreover, we rejected the defendant’s contention that he received ineffective assistance of counsel, because we concluded that 'defense counsel’s alleged error would not have altered the outcome' of the case, in light of the fact that the jury clearly “did not believe the defendant’s version of events.”

The court agreed that the defense counsel representation was "not constitutionally defective."

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