Murder conviction overturned, Kezer released from prison after more than 14 years

By Heartland News & AP
A southeast Missouri man imprisoned since 1992 for the slaying of a 19-year-old college student is free after a judge throws out the conviction and a prosecutor declines to retry the case.

Thirty-four-year old Joshua Charles Kezer walked out of the Jefferson City Correctional Center shortly after 3 p.m. CST Wednesday. A crowd of friends, family members and TV cameras greeted Kezer.

A day earlier, Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled that Kezer was wrongly convicted in the death of 19-year-old Angela Mischelle Lawless.

The judge's ruling sharply criticized the courtroom conduct of former Rep. Kenny Hulshof, who prosecuted the case. Callahan ruled that Hulshof improperly withheld several key pieces of evidence from Kezer's defense attorneys.

Scott County prosecutor Paul Boyd said Wednesday "based on my discussions, I do not expect to receive a probable cause affidavit from any law enforcement source that would support the prosecution of Joshua Kezer or anyone else for Mischelle's murder in the next nine days.  The investigators have a lot of work to do resolving this case. If some new evidence comes to light pointing at a suspect, I expect to be apprised of the facts and determine if a prosecution should be commenced at that time.  Today,the Missouri Department of Corrections will receive a letter to release Mr. Kezer."

1992:  Angela Mischelle Lawless murdered

1994:  Josh Kezer convicted of murder

2006: Scott County sheriff reopens investigation

2008: Hearing to challenge conviction

Scott County Sheriff Rick Walter says he was just doing his job when he reopened a 12-year-old murder case and helped the man convicted of the crime win his freedom.

Walter was a reserve deputy when he found the body of Angela Mischelle Lawless in her idling car on an Interstate 55 exit ramp in Benton in 1992. He won election as sheriff in 2004 after losing the 2000 race to longtime incumbent Bill Ferrell.

Kezer was released from state prison Wednesday, one day after a Cole County judge ruled that he was wrongly convicted. Kezer and his attorneys credit Walter for digging up several key pieces of new evidence that helped convince the judge of his innocence.