Earlier today the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a jury verdict in White v. McKinley. In White v. McKinley, a wife falsely accused her husband of child molestation. The cop she was having an affair with withheld evidence exonerating the husband. At least two prosecutors (Jennifer Mettler and Jill Kanatzar) knew about the affair, but didn't disclose this information to the defense.
The husband was convicted of child molestation, and spent over 5 years in prison. Only later did he learn about the affair. The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed his conviction. After being re-tried twice, the husband was exonerated.
Before he was exonerated at trial, his wife filed for divorce. As part of the divorce settlement, she received $6,100 in child support, and $600,000 in company stock. She then married the police detective who conspired with her to convict an innocent man.
After being exonerated, the husband sued. In 2008, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals panel allowed the case proceed to trial. White v. McKinley (2008) (here). The initial panel's decision presented facts even more disturbing than its 2010 White opinion:
Prior to [the detective's January 1999 deposition, the prosecutor told Richard that he would need to answer questions aboutthe affair truthfully. The prosecutor said he would cough to signal to Richard when he needed to disclose the affair in response to a question. Richard was asked if he had any personal interest in the case, during a deposition, and he stated he did not. The prosecutor did not signal him to say otherwise. Consequently, White never learned ofRichard and Tina's affair before his first criminal trial.
How is that not a conspiracy to obstruct justice? The detective and prosecutor clearly conspired to deprive an innocent man of his rights. They clearly intended to obstruct a criminal investigation. As the detective was under oath during the deposition, the prosecutor and detective conspired to commit perjury.
Why haven't the prosecutor and detective faced criminal prosecution?
As part of the divorce settlement, Tina and Detective (yes, he's still a detective) Richard McKinley received over $600,000. Why haven't they been prosecuted for theft?
Why haven't the unethical prosecutors been disbarred? Jill Kanatzar is now a highly-paid partner at Dollar, Burns & Becker. Her husband is now the Jackson County District Attorney. Detective Richard McKinley remains a highly-paid member of the Lee's Summit Police Department.
While an innocent man was being raped for a crime that police and prosecutors framed him of, those same police and prosecutors received pay raises and promotions. They aren't even responsible for paying the verdict that Mr. White ultimately received. Instead, Lee's Summit taxpayers are footing the bill:
The city of Lee’s Summit settled its part of the case in 2006 by agreeing to cover any judgments against McKinley after its insurance carriers had paid. Mayor Karen Messerli said the city could be paying a substantial sum from taxpayer’s dollars.
Taxpayers had nothing to do with the man's wrongful conviction. Tina McKinley, Jennifer Mettler, Jill Kanatzar, and Detective Richard McKinley had everything to do with the conviction. Nevertheless, those who are most responsible are being held the least accountable. In what world does it make sense to punish those least responsible, while rewarding those most responsible?
Interestingly, the panel's 2008 opinion did not identify the unethical prosecutors by name. Instead, the panel referred to "the prosecutor." A person looking for information about Jennifer Mettler and Jill Kanatzar would thus not discover that they are unethical prosecutors who helped conspire to frame an innocent man for child molestation.
The panel's 2010 opinion, however, identified the unethical prosecutors by name. Thank you, your honors, for taking a step towards holding prosecutors accountable.
In a just world, the unethical prosecutor would be disbarred and prosecuted. In the unjust world we live in, prosecutors who violate the law should at least be identified by name in the Federal Reporter.
My only request is that you forward a copy of your opinion to the Missouri Bar Association. I'd do it myself, but suspect that my report would be treated with less gravitas than yours:
The Missouri Bar
PO Box 119
Jefferson City, MO 65102
Phone: 573-635-4128 | FAX: 573-635-2811
No amount of money will give Mr. White his life back. Contacting the State Bar will ensure that Jennifer Mettler and Jill Kanatzar are never again allowed to abuse their law licenses.