BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday from an Alabama death row inmate who claimed that evidence withheld by prosecutors entitled him to a new court hearing.
The justices did not comment in turning away the appeal from Bill Kuenzel, convicted of killing a convenience store clerk in the east Alabama city of Sylacauga in 1987.
The state attorney general's office could now ask the Alabama Supreme Court to set an execution date for Kuenzel, 54.
A prosecutor did not immediately return a message seeking comment. An attorney for Kuenzel, Eric Berman, said the man's legal team was "obviously disappointed" since Kuenzel's claims have never had a full review because of a filing deadline that was supposedly missed in the 1990s.
State courts had earlier refused Kuenzel's pleas for a new hearing.
Kuenzel's case had gotten a boost from former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese, who argued in court papers that Kuenzel is "very likely actually innocent."
Kuenzel's lawyers said that the evidence would have raised doubts about the truthfulness of plea deal testimony from a roommate who said Kuenzel committed the killing.
Kuenzel was convicted of murdering convenience store clerk Linda Jean Offord, a mother of three who was shot to death while working a night shift. Kuenzel's roommate, who had blood on his pants after the murder, testified that Kuenzel committed the crime.
Kuenzel lawyer's said they found out in 2010 that a teenage witness— who testified she saw Kuenzel at the convenience store — initially told a grand jury that she wasn't certain it was Kuenzel she saw. Defense lawyers said they've also learned that the roommate had a shotgun of the same gauge used to kill Offord and also initially told police that he had been at the convenience store with another friend, not Kuenzel.
The Alabama attorney general's office has argued that the teenage witness only had slight variations in her certainty that Kuenzel was at the store, and there was other testimony and evidence that backed up the guilty verdict. Prosecutors wrote in a brief that Kuenzel had tried to fabricate an alibi for the day of the murder, and that he and his roommate made notes in a notebook that suggested they were trying to coordinate their stories to police.
The case is Kuenzel v. Alabama, 16-213.