Curtis Kyles was convicted of murdering a woman in a store parking lot, and was sentenced to death in the Parish of Orleans, Louisiana.
The police came to suspect Mr. Kyles due to an informant (with numerous aliases) named Joseph "Beanie" Wallace, who claimed that he purchased the victim's stolen car from Mr. Kyles after the murder. Wallace seemed eager to cast suspicion on Kyles and made it clear that he expected some reward for his help, saying at one point that he was not "doing all of this for nothing." Despite his help in arresting Mr. Kyles, Wallace never testified at trial. The prosecution bolstered Wallace's claim with evidence that some objects associated with the crime, including the murder weapon, were found in and around Mr. Kyles' home--after Wallace had visited Kyles. Several witnesses testified at trial that Mr. Kyles was the person they saw at the crime scene.
The first trial ended in a mistrial after four hours of deliberation. Upon retrial, Mr. Kyles was convicted, pending appeal, Kyles filed a motion under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b)(2) and (6) to reopen the District Court judgment. In that motion, he charged that one of the eyewitnesses who testified against him at trial committed perjury. In the witness's accompanying affidavit, Darlene Kersh (formerly Cahill), the only such witness who had not given a contemporaneous statement, swears that she told the prosecutors and detectives she did not have an opportunity to view the assailant's face and could not identify him. Nevertheless, Kersh identified Kyles untruthfully, she says, after being "told by some people . . . [who] I think . . . were district attorneys and police, that the murderer would be the guy seated at the table with the attorney and that that was the one I should identify as the murderer. One of the people there was at the D.A.'s table at the trial. To the best of my knowledge there was only one black man sitting at the counsel table and I pointed him out as the one I had seen shoot the lady." Kersh claims to have agreed to the State's wishes only after the police and district attorneys assured her that "all the other evidence pointed to [Kyles] as the killer." Affidavit of Darlene Kersh 5, 7. Had this material been disclosed to the defense, it would not only have undercut the case against Mr. Kyles, but would have supported his claim that he was being framed by Wallace.
The case was remanded for a third trial, which ended in a hung jury, as did fourth and fifth trials. In the end, the District Attorney announced that he would drop all charges against Mr. Kyles who was set free, having once come within 30 hours of scheduled execution.
Time lapsed from arrest to exoneration: Approximately 50 months