John Kinsel, Claiming Wrongful Conviction, Is Denied New Trial: "Our Hands Are Tied", Says Court

Categories: Crime

john portrait.jpg
Photo by Mandy Oaklander
John Kinsel's chances of freedom grow slimmer.
A few months ago, we wrote a cover story about John Kinsel, a Texas man sentenced in Louisiana to life without parole for the rape of his girlfriend's live-in daughter. That girl, 9-year-old Alyssa Medlin, testified that Kinsel had raped her anally and vaginally for years.

Years later as an adult, Medlin recanted and said she made the whole thing up. Since then, Kinsel has been fighting for his release from Angola Prison -- or at very least, for a new trial. He was granted one in 2006, when a judge ruled that without Medlin's testimony, there was no case. The state appealed, saying that she was more credible as a child than as an adult. The Fifth Circuit upheld the appeal, but Kinsel's lawyer Autumn Town was granted a rare oral argument in front of the court. Only 12 percent of such requests are granted.

A few days ago, Kinsel received a long-awaited decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals: there's nothing they can do.

Kinsel couldn't prove, the judges wrote in the 14-page opinion, that he had undergone any constitutional violations. "The state court's decision must have been more than incorrect or erroneous," said the opinion. "The state court's application must have been 'objectively unreasonable.'" But it's hard to call any application in this case "objectively unreasonable", since Medlin at one point or another testified to both sides.

Another way to gain relief would be to prove that the state used perjured testimony to get a conviction. In some circuits, it's a violation to use perjured testimony even when the government doesn't know it's perjured. This would almost certainly apply in Kinsel's case, but in the Fifth Circuit, prosecutors are only at fault if they know the testimony is perjured. Although witnesses for the defendant questioned the veracity of Medlin's testimony at the time, the prosecutors never budged.

Basically, since Kinsel couldn't effectively prove that his conviction was obtained by violating the Constitution, there's nothing the Fifth Circuit could do -- even though it acknowledges that if Kinsel were to get a new trial, he probably would not be determined guilty.

The opinion closes thus:

It is beyond regrettable that a possibly innocent man will not receive a new trial in the face of the preposterously unreliable testimony of the victim and sole eyewitness to the crime for which he was convicted. But our hands are tied by the AEDPA [Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act], preventing our review of Kinsel's attack on his Louisiana postconviction proceedings, so we dutifully dismiss his claim.

Kinsel's sister, Alice Wilkinson, said that last line broke her heart. "It makes them sound like they believe he's innocent," she said.

Kinsel's final course of action is to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which he and his lawyer plan to do. Town was not available to comment.

Said Wilkinson, "It's just all crazy if you ask me. I think they should just let him come home."


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16 comments
Justminecuz
Justminecuz

ok people ya wanna know what i think of this...well i have a 16 year old daughter who has never been able to see her dad...why ya say...look how long johns been in jail....an for longer then 16 years everyone around all of us know she was lying but there was nothing we could do it was her words againest ours...those r the same words that keep him locked up today....it was wrong an i lied is whats words come from her now an the court system still wont let him out....i would love for someone in the court system to tell me what words i am to tell my daughter when she asks why mommy why wont they let him out...isnt it enough he has missed everything in her life not to mention his other kids lifes...his girls have no dad to walk em down the isle he will miss every graduation every grandchild being born....

Mattisonsmommy2011
Mattisonsmommy2011

john kinsel is a good man! He is, was and will forever a father to me...the judicial system is obviously flawed...they can let a mother who MURDERED her child in cold blood roam free but yet they refuse to give a good, INNOCENT man justice and let him put this life changing event behind him! I guess thats what happens when you attempt to receive help from todays judiciary system.

Paul
Paul

I feel I'd the young girl admits to lying to the police and courts she should join him for the rest of her natural life in a women's prison justice is justice

Swa9375
Swa9375

This is so wrong. Why can't they have a new trial? If it were a big shots famly member they would have already released him from jail and all charges pardoned and the liar would be in jail!!! What can we do to help him and his family?

Biggsamith1228
Biggsamith1228

The criminal justice system is so jacked up,there are many people locked up wrongfully.

Nicole Rushing Goforth
Nicole Rushing Goforth

You're right Alice, this is just crazy.  At very least, they need to give him a new a trial - a chance.  The accuser has admitted to her dishonesty, which is admirable, but the courts need to give (if not him) her the chance to make it right be correcting this wrong.

Stayawayfrmtrash
Stayawayfrmtrash

that medlin bitch needs to serve time. at 9 yrs old able to be a disgusting liar putting an innocent man behind bars. no need for women like that.

Kylejack
Kylejack

Terrible. Reminds me of this old gem:

"This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent.  Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable."Antonin Scalia

ALICE
ALICE

SOME DAY NEW KID WILL GET TO KNOW HER DAD AND BROTHERS AND HER SISTER AND EVEN HER AUNTS. I WILL MAKE SURE OF THAT. 

ALICE
ALICE

THANK YOU FOR BELIEVING IN JOHN. 

ALICE
ALICE

ON ALYSSA'S BEHALF... SHE TRIED TO DO THE RIGHT THING BY GOING TO THE D.A. AND TRYING TO RIGHT THE WRONG THAT WAS DONE YEARS AGO. SHE WAS THREATENED WITH PERJURY. JOHN IS MY BROTHER AND WE DO NOT WANT ANY MORE SUFFERING. THERE HAS BEEN ENOUGH. SHE ALSO WENT BEFORE A JUDGE KNOWING SHE COULD POSSIBLY FACE TIME IN JAIL AND TOLD HER STORY. HER WORD WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO PUT HIM IN PRISON BUT WHEN SHE TRIED TO TELL THE TRUTH HER WORD WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM. WE JUST WANT JUSTICE TO BE SERVED IN JOHN'S CASE. SO PLEASE NO MORE NEGATIVE COMMENTS. JOHN IS AN INNOCENT MAN AND ALYSSA DID TRY TO GET HIM FREED.

Ntowl
Ntowl

ON ALYSSA'S BEHALF... SHE TRIED TO DO THE RIGHT THING BY GOING TO THE D.A. AND TRYING TO RIGHT THE WRONG THAT WAS DONE YEARS AGO. SHE WAS THREATENED WITH PERJURY. JOHN IS MY BROTHER AND WE DO NOT WANT HER TO SERVE ANY TIME IN JAIL.SHE ALSO WENT BEFORE A JUDGE KNOWING SHE COULD POSSIBLY FACE TIME IN JAIL AND TOLD HER STORY. HER WORD WAS GOOD ENOUGH TO PUT HIM IN PRISON BUT WHEN SHE TRIED TO TELL THE TRUTH HER WORD WASN'T GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM. WE JUST WANT JUSTICE TO BE SERVED IN JOHN'S CASE. SO PLEASE NO MORE NEGATIVE COMMENTS. JOHN IS AN INNOCENT MAN AND ALYSSA DID TRY TO GET HIM FREED.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Truly scary stuff.

Dennisrhonda45
Dennisrhonda45

Alice what is anything new since I last talked to u

Mattisonsmommy2011
Mattisonsmommy2011

Aunt alice this is krystal...if there is ANYTHING I can do to help just let me know. I need johns address again I wasnt to write him now that I'm settled into my new place..i missed placed it durning my move...

Love you!

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