ST. LOUIS (CN) – A man whose robbery conviction was overturned on appeal claims St. Louis officials framed him to deflect attention from a botched investigation that could have prevented a high-profile murder.
Cornell McKay sued St. Louis, City Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce, SC Ryan Consulting – the city’s PR form and spokesman – several police officers and the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners on Tuesday in Federal Court.
McKay was sentenced to 12 years in prison for first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. Prosecutors claimed he robbed a woman of her cell phone at gunpoint in August 2012.
A state appeals court reversed the conviction in December 2014, finding that defense attorneys should have been allowed to present evidence pointing to another suspect at trial.
That suspect, Keith Esters, killed Megan Boken, a former St. Louis University volleyball player, eight days after McKay’s alleged robbery. Esters, 21, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life in prison. He shot Boken in the head and chest to steal her cell phone.
McKay claims police and the prosecutors conspired to frame him for the robbery to deflect from the Boken murder, which made national headlines.
“Had they pursued known evidentiary leads, including the incoming and outgoing calls from the victim’s cell phone, they would have identified Keith Esters as the perpetrator of the robbery and apprehended him before he shot and killed Megan Boken days later,” the complaint states.
“Once it became evident that the ineptness of the 9th District’s investigation of the robbery allowed Keith Esters to remain at large to commit additional crimes, law enforcement officers sought to charge a different suspect with the initial robbery. Officers in the 9th District devised a conspiratorial scheme with the objective of framing plaintiff Cornell McKay with the robbery.”
McKay claims that investigators ignored phone records that would have vindicated him, ignored warnings from the homicide division that they had the wrong guy and refused to interview key witnesses.
McKay spent two years and nine months in prison before his conviction was reversed. During his time, “He was deprived of educational and vocational opportunities, income and suffered severe economic harm,” the complaint states. “He was forced to suffer indescribable assaults to his person, mental anguish, emotional pain, separation from his family and friends, and was forced to live in an environment where he risked being assaulted on a regular basis. He was deprived of the normal enjoyments of his life, from age 20 through age 23, in that he was unable to be married or have complete relations with members of the opposite sex, start and raise a family of his own or pursue a meaningful and gainful career.”
Despite the reversal of his conviction, McKay says, Joyce has defamed him by stating in public that “prosecutors had no doubt” about his guilt.
At the time of the reversal, Joyce’s office said in a statement that prosecutors believed McKay received a fair trial and that they planned to appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court. Joyce’s office dropped the charges in May, citing the victim’s unwillingness to testify.
McKay claims Joyce made several statements about his guilt to media, including telling the Riverfront Times: “We believe Cornell McKay committed this robbery, we have no doubt about that. The only reason we’re not going to trial is because the victim does not want to go forward.”
Courthouse News obtained McKay’s lawsuit late Tuesday evening so Joyce’s office was unavailable to comment.
McKay seeks punitive damages for false arrest, malicious prosecution, defamation and violations of due process. His lead attorney is James Dowd.
- Biotech Execs Accused of Options Trick
- Audit Finds California Vulnerable to Hackers