Keith Carnes was exonerated and freed after serving more than 18 years in prison for crimes he didn’t commit
KANSAS CITY, MO – Several KCPD officers were accused of fabricating and hiding evidence to frame Keith Carnes of murder in a lawsuit filed here today in federal court. Carnes alleges that the Kansas City Police Department had an official policy of hiding evidence to get convictions at all costs.
The suit accuses six KCPD officers and former prosecutor Amy McGowan of coercing eyewitnesses to identify Keith Carnes as the shooter in an unsolved murder even though no one could identify him. KCPD officers Robert Blehm and Avery Williamson are accused of pressuring a key eyewitness to finger Carnes for the murder of Larry White while hiding evidence that the witness had previously failed to identify Carnes.
Carnes alleges that his wrongful conviction was caused by corrupt practices of KCPD officers. His lawsuit states:
The officers relied on a network of drug-addicted women, many of whom were homeless and engaged in prostitution, to fabricate statements that Plaintiff was the killer. Even as evidence emerged that Thomas was the real killer, the officers stuck to their scheme and suppressed evidence that Plaintiff was innocent and Thomas was guilty.
The KCPD approved of the officers’ misconduct—allowing its officers to create false evidence, hide evidence of their informants, and remove information from police files before sharing with prosecutors—according to the suit.
Although no physical evidence ever connected Carnes to the crime, he was wrongfully convicted of first-degree murder and armed criminal action in March 2006. In April 2022, the Supreme Court of Missouri vacated Carnes’ conviction and the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office dismissed all charges against him. Carnes is 53 years old.
During his wrongful imprisonment, Keith was separated from his wife, his children, his brother Kevin, and the rest of his family. He lost his grandmother, who raised him when he was a teenager. He was separated from his children, who grew into adults without him.
“While nothing can return the 18 years that Keith lost, this lawsuit is a step towards justice for Keith and his family,” said Locke Bowman, one of Carnes’ attorneys at Loevy & Loevy. “The Kansas City police practices described in this lawsuit—fabricating evidence to secure convictions and propel officers’ own careers forward—amount to corruption.”
While other states provide wrongfully convicted people with access to financial compensation, health benefits, and/or social services for the trauma they faced and years stolen from their lives, Missouri offers zero relief to exonerees like Carnes. In Missouri, only those exonerated by DNA evidence are eligible for financial relief.
A copy of today’s suit, Keith Carnes v. Robert Blehm, et al., No. 23-cv-00278-DGK filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, is available here.