Former Leander High School football star Greg Kelley had his conviction on child sexual assault charges overturned Wednesday by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
The court ruled that no "reasonable juror" would have convicted him.
The court said in its opinion that the criminal justice system failed Kelley because it "convicted an innocent man," citing the "evidence was weak to begin with consisting of seemingly coached, largely uncorroborated testimony of a very young child."
The ruling further stated new evidence gathered since Kelley's conviction that looks into whether someone else committed the crime “produced significant evidence eroding the persuasiveness of the state’s case.”
The decision sent the case back to Williamson County.
On Wednesday, Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick announced he has no intention of retrying the case, meaning Kelley no longer has to wait, uncertain about the fate of his case.
It remains unknown at this point whether Kelley will be entitled to $80,000 per year of his incarceration in compensation from the state. The ruling itself did not include a statement of innocence. Kelley's lawyers are hopeful the Williamson County judge in the case will make a declaration of innocence, which is legally required for him to be entitled to the compensation.
Kelley has told the media he and his fiance are looking forward to their wedding, in January, and he is looking into options to play college football.
Kelley was convicted in 2013 in Williamson County of super-aggravated sexual assault of a child, the most serious charge he could have faced for the crime.
Kelley, who was going to Leander High School at the time, was staying with a friend when a child claimed Kelley had molested him. He rejected an offered plea deal and went to trial in the case, which resulted in his conviction and a 25-year prison sentence.
Williamson County District Attorney Shawn Dick agreed to review the evidence in the case after being elected and quickly said another suspect had emerged.
In August 2017, Shaw said he never would have prosecuted the case and argued that everyone from the Cedar Park Police's investigation, which he called “wholly deficient,” to prosecutors and Kelly's own defense attorney failed him.
Kelley's lawyers also argued the Cedar Park police investigation was so shoddy that Kelley was essentially denied fair treatment by the judicial system. They argued the investigating officer, Chris Dailey, failed to complete basic and important steps in the investigation. This included identifying other adults in the house where the abuse occurred, failing to consider other suspects and failure to take photographs.
They also noted the officer conceded in testimony that when one of the two boys who accused Kelley of molestation later said Kelley didn't do it, he pushed the child to stay with his original allegations. The child later recanted on the witness stand.
Another point in the criticism by Kelley's attorneys focused on the police and prosecutors having "tunnel vision" on Kelley as a suspect and failed to follow up on Johnathan McCarty, whose mother operated an in-home day care facility where the abuse happened and has been deemed an "alternative suspect" in the case by authorities. Texas Rangers have also noted they have since identified another unnamed possible suspect in the case.
The attorney emphasized McCarty because they argued Patricia Cummings, Kelley's trial attorney at the time, did not represent him properly, refused to consider McCarty as a possible suspect and had a conflict of interest because she previously represented family members of McCarty. Cummings has denied the claims.
A Williamson County judge released Kelley on bail in August 2017, a rarely seen move for a convicted individual, after hearing the additional evidence in the case. Kelley has been waiting in limbo since that time for a higher court to rule on his case.
In its overturn ruling, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the claims of inadequate investigation and that Cummings had a conflict, calling it "Monday-morning quarter-backing."
In response to the court's ruling, Cedar Park Police Chief Sean Mannix, who served as chief when the investigation was conducted, released the following statement:
"I respect today’s ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals granting Greg Kelley’s application for relief. As Justice Newell’s concurring opinion indicates, this relief was based on new evidence post-conviction, and not on the grounds of deprivation of due process or ineffective assistance of counsel."
"Make no mistake, I have heard the criticisms surrounding this case and taken actions to address them. I want to reassure our citizens that the department remains steadfast in our commitment to ensure community safety and public trust. It’s a responsibility and privilege I take very seriously."
Cedar Park City Manager Brenda Eivens released a statement about the ruling, which read:
"The City of Cedar Park respects today’s Court of Criminal Appeals ruling that grants Greg Kelley’s application for relief from his criminal conviction. The comments and criticisms directed at this investigation were thoughtfully considered, and resulted in action."