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Friday, December 8, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Judge Throws Out |Robbery Conviction

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A state appeals court reversed the robbery conviction of a St. Louis man, finding that defense attorneys should have been able to present additional evidence pointing to another suspect.

Cornell McKay was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being convicted of one count of first-degree robbery and one count of armed criminal action.

Prosecutors claimed McKay robbed a woman at gunpoint on Aug. 10, 2012, and took her cellphone and cash. They claimed that both Dunsinger and her husband identified McKay in a lineup.

Defense attorneys argued that evidence pointed to another suspect, Keith Esters, who killed a former St. Louis University volleyball player during a similar robbery attempt eight days after the Dunsinger was robbed.

The murder occurred just three blocks from where the Dunsinger robbery took place. Esters later pleaded guilty to the crime.

While investigating the murder, St. Louis Det. Jerone Jackson learned of the earlier robbery. Jackson then obtained call logs from the stolen cellphone that linked the phone to Esters.

Defense attorneys made a motion for inclusion of Ester's girlfriend's testimony that he possessed a gun that matched the one used in the Dunsinger robbery, and also sought to offer further proof that Ester had bought the gun a short time before the robbery.

"The State argued that Esters's possession of 'a small silver gun' was irrelevant because 'half the criminals in the City of St. Louis have a small silver gun.' The trial court rejected Defendant's offer of proof regarding Esters's possession of the gun finding that the defense had not established a substantial link between Esters and the gun used in the robbery," the opinion states.

The defense called two witnesses - Ester's girlfriend (Kaylin Perry) and Jackson - but before they were called to testify both were told that they were not to mention the murder case or refer to Ester by his last name.

The Circuit Attorney's Office said it believes that McKay was granted a fair trial, complete with "defense evidence of an alternative perpetrator."

Jurors meanwhile credited the "sound testimony of the victim and eyewitness who positively identified Mr. McKay as the perpetrator of robbery," the office's statement continues.

Prosecutors plan to take the case to the Missouri Supreme Court, it added.

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