Keith West Granted Pardon Based on Innocence In One of KY Gov. Bevin’s Final Acts as Governor
Keith West was only 19 years old when he was wrongly convicted at the hands of disgraced former Louisville Police Detective Mark Handy. He is the fourth person with a conviction tied to Handy’s misconduct to be exonerated.
LOUISVILLE, KY – Mr. West has claimed for decades that he was framed for murder by disgraced former Louisville Police Detective and now criminal defendant Mark Handy. Just two months ago, Mr. West was denied justice in a Jefferson County Court after Judge Olu Stevens declined to grant him a new trial based on newly discovered evidence of his innocence and Detective Handy’s penchant for misconduct. In one of Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin’s final acts in office, he granted Keith West a full and unconditional pardon. Keith West is now the fourth person to have been exonerated in cases involving Detective Handy.
Timeline of Handy’s Misconduct: HERE
“Since 1992, Keith West has wrongfully been branded a murderer. Because of the pardon granted to him by Governor Bevin, Keith can finally begin moving on with his life as an innocent man, void of his wrongful conviction and all of its resulting consequences.” Amy Robinson Staples, Counsel for Keith West.
“Keith West finally has his name back. It’s a travesty that Keith never got justice in Jefferson County. Governor Bevin had the courage to do what countless judges failed to do: take a deep look at the evidence in this case and come to the conclusion that he was wrongfully convicted. We could not be more grateful for his decision.” Elliot Slosar, Counsel for Keith West.
In February of 1992, Gerald White and Kevin Harraway- armed with a handgun, numerous rounds of ammunition, a knife, a rope, and electrical tape – kidnapped and threatened to sexually assault and kill 19-year-old Keith West. Held against his will in a speeding vehicle, and fearful for his life, Mr. West was forced to act in self-defense.
During the investigation, Detective Mark Handy learned of significant exculpatory evidence found at the scene of the crime that corroborated West’s account of self-defense but withheld it all from the prosecutors and defense team. In addition, Handy coerced two eyewitnesses into giving false statements and testimony. On one occasion, Mr. Handy coerced a witness named Robert Ross into falsely implicating Keith West on an audio-recorded tape. After successfully coercing Mr. Ross to lie against Mr. West, Detective Handy rewound the tape and began recording the coerced and rehearsed statement. Detective Handy is being criminally prosecuted for felony destruction of evidence in Jefferson County for the allegations regarding Mr. Ross. On another occasion, Detective Handy fabricated the testimony of a second eyewitness, Ruth Bowie, to fit his false version of the facts.
Keith West was wrongfully convicted of two counts of wanton murder at his 1995 trial. He was then sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1997, Mr. West was granted a new trial after a Jefferson County Court determined that the Commonwealth withheld impeachment evidence relating to a witness against Mr. West. Prior to a second murder trial, Mr. West entered an Alford plea to manslaughter charges in exchange for a ten-year sentence. At the time of this plea, Detective Handy continued to withhold the significant exculpatory evidence indicating that Mr. West was innocent of the charges against him.
Since his release, Mr. West has lived with the stigma associated with being falsely branded as a murderer. Because of this, in September 2018, Mr. West filed a motion to vacate his wrongful conviction in Jefferson County. In that petition, Mr. West provided the Court with newly discovered evidence of his innocence and Detective Handy’s penchant for misconduct. A three-day evidentiary took place over the summer of 2019 where several eyewitnesses recanted their testimony and informed the Court of misconduct committed by Detective Handy. Detective Handy also testified and invoked his Fifth Amendment rights in response to whether he framed Keith West – and others – for crimes they did not commit.
During this hearing, Assistant Attorney General Jon Heck testified that the Commonwealth could not call Det. Handy to testify again in criminal prosecutions because he was a “detective who had a pattern, around that time, of taking statements that were either fed by him and false or he tinkered with…a tape recorder…So now I have a detective that plays with the tape recorder, re-tapes statements. I also have one that feeds false confessions to people who didn’t commit crimes and…I can’t be expected to put that witness on the stand.” Former Louisville Police Department Sgt. Denver Butler also testified regarding his investigations into Handy and individuals Handy framed for crimes they did not commit. During that time, Mr. Butler concluded that Keith West – like Jeffrey Clark, Keith Hardin, and Edwin Chandler – was wrongfully convicted as a result of Handy fabricating false evidence and withholding exculpatory evidence.
After a one-sided hearing, on October 8, 2019, Judge Olu Stephens shockingly denied Mr. West a new trial. While litigating the appeal, Mr. West sought a full and unconditional pardon from Governor Bevin. Mountains of evidence of Handy’s misconduct has led to the exonerations of Edwin Chandler, Jeffrey Clark, Keith Hardin, and now Keith West.
Mr. West is represented by Amy Robinson Staples and Elliot Slosar of the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School. A copy of the petition for pardon is attached HERE and a copy of the executive order HERE.
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