In August 2013, Greg Kelley, an outstanding football athlete, was arrested on the campus of Leander High School in Leander, Texas, located in Williamson and Travis Counties. He was charged with sexually assaulting a 4-year-old boy at a daycare center operated in the Cedar Park home of a family friend with whom Kelley was living. Seventeen days later, a second 4-year-old boy came forward to say Kelley had sexually assaulted him.
Greg Kelley was actually innocent.
Documentary Highlights Problem of Wrongful Convictions
As the recent Showtime 5-part documentary “Outcry” revealed, the real perpetrator of the child sexual abuse was more than likely the son of the woman operating the daycare center. The children said the person who abused them identified himself as “Greg” and wore “Sponge Bob” pants. Besides bearing a remarkable resemblance to Kelley, the son frequently wore Sponge Bob pants, and, as Outcry disclosed, has a history of child rape and sexual abuse.
Accepting Outcry as essentially factual, and there is little reason to doubt the participants in the documentary, the series revealed just how easy it is for corrupt police and prosecutors to frame an innocent person, especially in a child sexual abuse case.
Senior, Football Star Convicted After Flawed Investigation and Rush to Judgement
The county in which Kelley was framed is Williamson County, which, as we have noted, has a sordid, pathetic history of its police and prosecutors deliberately framing innocent people and sending them to prison (here and here).
In the Kelley case, the Cedar Park Police Department handled the flawed police investigation led by its former Police Chief, Sean Mannix, and lead detective Chris Dailey. Outcry documented their corrupt misconduct, and the repeated lies the two law enforcement officials used to frame Kelley.
Kelley was prosecuted by District Attorney Jana Duty and Assistant District Geoffrey Puryear.
DA’s Office Had History of Misconduct
Long before her corrupt prosecutorial misconduct in the Kelley case and before her 2019 suicide, Duty had a history of engaging in prosecutorial misconduct in a litany of ways, as reported in the July 13, 2020 edition of Oxygen.
Duty and Puryear withheld significant evidence implicating McCarty as the perpetrator and concealed evidence that showed Kelley was not even at the McCarty residence when the alleged abuse occurred. Puryear has since been rewarded with a criminal court judgeship appointment by Gov. Greg Abbott.
The prosecutorial misconduct engaged by district attorney Duty and her cohort Puryear came as no surprise to us. We introduced Duty in a June 2016 post as part of a continuing line of corrupt prosecutors in Williamson County.
Allegations of Misconduct by Defense Counsel
What did come as a surprise is a laundry list of alleged misconduct committed by Kelley’s trial counsel, Patricia Cummings. Cummings, who gained professional distinction for her role in the successful representation that established the innocence of Michael Morton, was depicted throughout Outcry documentary by Kelley’s post-conviction attorney Keith Hampton as shamefully and obviously conflicted in her representation of Kelley.
Hampton is a highly regarded Austin criminal defense attorney who was the recipient of the 2014 Percy Foreman Attorney of the Year Award presented by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association. He alleges repeated evidence of professional misconduct committed by Cummings to undermine Kelley’s effort to establish his innocence.
For example, Hampton charged that Cummings, who now heads the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit, did not disclose to Kelley that she had a releationship with the complainants family, nor did she investigate evidence that the family’s son was an “alternative suspect” in the abuse, according to Outcry director Pat Kondelis.
Hampton also charged in Outcry that Cummings and her attorney conspired with the State Prosecuting Attorney to undermine Kelley’s habeas corpus writ application while it was pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
While Cummings vehemently denies these allegations, as reported in a July 24, 2020 edition of Oxygen, Hampton disclosed friendly email exchanges between the parties setting up meetings between the trio and also pointed out that Cummings presented a 95-page amicus curiae brief in opposition to Kelley’s writ application before the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Here’s what we know in the wake of the Outcry documentary:
- Due to massive improprieties in the police and prosecution of the Greg Kelley case, current Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick reopened the case in May 2017 in the interests of justice.
- In a 40-page ruling following an exhaustive evidentiary hearing, Williamson County District Court Judge Donna King found in December 2017 that Kelley had established his “actual innocence” through clear and convincing evidence; that Cummings had provided ineffective assistance of counsel to Kelley; and that Kelley had been the target of an unfair police investigation.
- On November 6, 2019, all nine judges on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed that Kelley had established his actual innocence and upheld Judge King’s ruling.
- On November 27, 2019, Judge King formally declared Greg Kelley actually innocent.
- In the wake of the Kelley case, Chief Mannix and Detective Dailey resigned from the Cedar Park Police Department.
- In May 2020, Greg Kelley filed a lawsuit against the City of Cedar Park, Mannix, and Dailey.
- Greg Kelley is eligible for $250,000 in wrongful conviction compensation, fully paid tuition to any college of his choice, and $80,000 for each year he was in prison.
- Greg Kelley is currently enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin and hopes to continue a career in sports.
The Greg Kelley tragedy is also indisputably clear: he was wrongfully convicted by the perfect storm of a manufactured law enforcement investigation, a corrupt prosecution, and an apparently biased defense attorney.
The criminal justice system, however, deserves some credit.
Lawyer Proves Actual Innocence
The path to Kelley’s actual innocence was paved by the heroic work his lawyer, Keith Hampton, the honorable actions of District Attorney Shawn Dick, the deliberative and thoughtful decision-making by Judge King, and the well-reasoned 97-page unanimous decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
And all the people involved in the Outcry documentary and the thousands of people in Williamson County who rallied their support for Kelley’s efforts to establish his innocence deserve immeasurable praise.
We wish Greg Kelley every success.