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Family, Advocates of Keith Carnes Call for His Immediate Release from Prison

JP Law

LICKING, Mo. — Family and advocates of Keith Carnes are asking for his immediate release from prison.He is still being held at South Central Correctional Center after the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office announced Friday that it’s dismissing all charges against him.

According to Carnes’ advocates and Rep. Kimberly Collins, a court order was also sent to his correctional facility to release him. “I waited 18 years for Keith to come home, and now they are holding him,” said Eve Moffatt, Carnes’ mother. Moffatt was hoping to pick up her son from prison Friday night following the news from the prosecutor’s office. To say she is hurt and disappointed is an understatement. “It’s going against all his rights, just the rights of human beings, holding him in captivity. And that’s mean. This is downright mean and nasty,” Moffatt said. Michelle Smith, an advocate for Keith Carnes, says he is illegally locked up. She claims it is a violation of his constitutional rights under the 14th Amendment.“This is obviously cruel because you are holding someone in a correctional facility against a court order, which is against the law,” Smith said.

Smith and other advocates on site have asked the prison captain why Carnes is being held, especially following the prosecutor’s dismissal of all charges and the court’s order to release him. “They verified that they have it — Captain Terry did. But he said that came from higher up, that he’s not to release Mr. Carnes,” Smith said. “When asked when will he be released, they were told, ‘We don’t know.’”

Criminal defense attorney John Picerno says there would have to be justification as to why the department of corrections is continuing to hold Carnes. “Anytime someone is held without either a criminal charge being filed against them, then they are being deprived of their liberty, and it is a constitutional violation,” Picerno said. He says while he cannot be sure without all the facts, there could be a few reasons to speculate. “Either he has an outstanding warrant, either the local county prosecutor has decided they are going to retry him, which doesn’t appear to be that that’s the case here, or potentially the [Missouri] Attorney General’s Office has intervened saying, ‘Not so fast, we’re gonna file a lawsuit,’” Picerno said.

Under a new statute that has passed, the AG can file another action. The prosecutor’s office would then have to defend its decision again. But with no further explanation for the fate of her son, Moffatt says her trust in the legal system is waning. “Open up the gate, all the fences, barbed wire and let my baby go,” Moffatt said.