Tim Kennedy enters the courtroom, shackled in orange prison garb. His eyes are bight, he controls a hopeful smile. He’s already told interviewers that whatever happens in today’s hearing, he’ll be happy. Happy because he’s waited 14 years for a second chance to show his innocence. There’s hope that this morning’s hearing will see his dream of exoneration become reality, that his prosecutor, Dan Zook, will acknowledge that “mistakes were made,” that charges will be dropped, that Kennedy will walk free.
As I sat in the courtroom, TV cameras rolled, and lines from the poet Langston Hughes played in my head.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin
in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Kennedy’s dream was deferred.
John Dicke, Kennedy’s attorney, reminded the court that assumptions, such as the soundness of now-discredited bullet-lead analysis, used to justify Kennedy’s original trial, were no longer valid. He pointed to the newly-brought-to-light evidence previously described by presiding Judge Thomas Kane to be “of such character as to probably bring an acquittal.” And Dicke recounted Kennedy’s reputation as a trustworthy and well-behaved inmate, as he’s waited all these years for exoneration.
But clearly, Dicke already knew that the DA would not drop the case. Otherwise, Dicke would not have had to proceed with an argument for setting bail at a relatively low $60,000.
Prosecutor Dan Zook’s insistence on retrying Kennedy centered upon character assassination. Kennedy, according to Zook was an unemployed drug dealer strung out on meth, though the record shows that Kennedy had no previous criminal record. Dicke rebutted, saying that Kennedy had suffered from an addiction to prescription painkillers. Zook only indirectly addressed the issue of a letter from an alternate suspect that Judge Kane had previously ruled “contains language that could be interpreted as solicitation of perjury” as well as “an admission to involvement in the murders." This letter had been withheld by the prosecution at Kennedy’s original trial.
So far, the DA’s office has been unwilling to reveal whether the failure to turn over the letter might result in any disciplinary action against those responsible for the failure. Today’s hearing suggests that the DA is uninterested in re-examining the 1991 murders in light of new scientific evidence.
I left the courthouse wondering if the DA’s office was as committed to finding truth as to saving face.
Tim Kennedy and his family left with a dream of exoneration that continues to be deferred.