Ted White, Jr.
Photo courtesy of KMBC-TV, Kansas City
Ted White’s attorney, Sean O’Brien, says of White’s exoneration, “This case highlights what can happen when crucial evidence is withheld from a defendant. The ultimate tragedy here is that Ted White had to suffer the agony of being imprisoned for seven years for a crime that he didn’t commit — and miss out on seven years of his life.”
White was a successful businessman in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. Everything changed in 1998, when White and his then-wife filed for divorce. During the divorce proceeding, White was accused of, and later charged with, molesting his adopted daughter. The nightmare began when White was convicted of the molestation, despite maintaining his innocence.
White fled to Costa Rica. In due time, he was caught, brutally beaten in a foreign prison, and then extradited back to Missouri. Because he fled to another country, White initially lost his right to appeal the conviction. Miraculously, White successfully won an appeal under a rarely-used exception to the No-Appeal Rule. After long hours of hard work, O’Brien and Dean Ellen Suni of the UMKC Law School were able to secure an appeal for White due to the prosecution’s failure to disclose significant and vital information in his original trial. This appeal won White a second trial.
Unfortunately, one holdout juror prevented the jury from reaching a unanimous not-guilty verdict. Finally, a long-awaited third trial resulted in White’s exoneration.
It is now known that the Lee’s Summit detective who was the lead investigator in the molestation allegations was having an affair with White’s wife, the biological mother of the alleged victim.
Other noteworthy evidence comes from a diary written by White’s adopted daughter. During the time of the supposed crime, the diary was reviewed by the detective, but returned without disclosing the diary’s existence to either White or his attorneys. Conveniently for the prosecution, the diary vanished. As a final point, the prosecuting attorney knew about the affair between the detective and White’s wife, but during the detective’s deposition, the prosecutor allowed the detective to testify that he had no personal interest in the results of the case.
On February 7, 2005 White was exonerated after jurors voted 12–0 in his favor. In March, 2005, White’s attorneys filed suit against the city of Lee’s Summit, the police chief, and the detective who worked on White’s case, as well as his ex-wife, who had since married the detective while White was in prison.
On August 29, 2008, White, along with his attorneys, Brian McCallister and Cyndy Short, Mike Kanovitz, Lovey & Lovey; and Scott Pettit received a verdict in which Detective Richard McKinley and Tina McKinley was convicted of conspiracy. On July 22, 2011, White received $15.5 million to settle his lawsuit against the city of Lee’s Summit, former Lee’s Summit Police Detective Richard McKinley, former Lee’s Summit Police Chief Kenneth Conlee, and Tina McKinley, White’s ex-wife.
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