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Missouri Man Finally Gets His Day In Court 19 Years After New Trial Ordered In Shooting Death Of Wife



Cliff Middleton
Nearly 20 years after a judge in Missouri overturned Ken Middleton’s life sentence and ordered a new trial in the death of his wife, Kathy Middleton, he may finally get a chance at freedom.
The former truck driver from Blue Springs, now 79, is still serving a life sentence plus 200 years for Kathy’s 1990 shooting death. He turned down a plea deal that would have set him free after serving 14 years if he admitted his guilt, but he maintained his innocence and took a chance on appealing the verdict.
After Middleton’s 1991 conviction, new evidence cast doubt on his guilt. Blue Springs Police detectives filed a report altered with white correction fluid, and a forensic expert determined Kathy accidentally shot herself while handling the gun at home.
In 2005, former Jackson County Circuit Court judge Edith Messina determined Middleton received ineffective counsel at his first trial, and vacated his sentence, ordering a new trial.
But the Missouri Attorney General’s office argued Messina, who is now senior advisor to Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, lacked jurisdiction to overturn Middleton’s sentence, and the Missouri Court of Appeals agreed.
Middleton has languished in prison since, but his appellate attorney, Kent Gipson, last summer filed a motion in Dekalb County calling for either a new trial or for his sentence to be vacated.
Gipson is arguing that Middleton’s constitutional rights were violated during his first trial when his untainted assets were illegally frozen prior to the trial. According to Gipson, then-assistant prosecutor Patrick W. Peters restricted Middleton’s access to his assets in violation of constitutional law.
Citing the 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Luis v. United States, which ruled a criminal defendant has the right to counsel of choice, Gipson argues Middleton’s 6th Amendment rights were violated when his legitimate untainted assets were frozen.
DeKalb County Circuit Court judge Ryan Wesley Horsman agreed to hear arguments that could grant Middleton a new trial, or free him from prison entirely. The hearing is set for July 24.
Attorneys with the Missouri Attorney General’s office intend to fight the case, filing court documents questioning whether the 2016 SCOTUS ruling can apply retroactively to Middleton’s case.
After 33 years of appeals being rejected in state and federal court, Middleton may finally see a fair trial — or freedom — based on a procedural error.
“I’m cautiously optimistic,” Middleton’s son, Cliff Middleton, told the Kansas City Star’s Toriano Porter. Cliff Middleton was 20 years old when his father was arrested, and has been fighting for his freedom ever since.
TMX contributed to this article.