America's justice system is a complicated affair, even in Texas. Men and woman are found guilty of crimes they did not commit and will lose decades of their life because of it. When that person if found innocent of the crime, it starts a process of questions of why the investigation went wrong and causes the victim's family to start grieving all over again. A recent decision by the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals has done just what that last sentence states.

Kerry Max Cook

Kerry Max Cook was convicted of killing Linda Joe Edwards in Tyler in 1977. She was found raped and murdered in her Tyler apartment. Cook was found guilty and sentenced to death row. He received a second trial in 1992 but that ended with a hung jury. In 1994, a third trial again found him guilty of murder and was sentenced to death.

However, in 1996 the Texas Criminal Court overturned the conviction. Cook's attorneys alleged gross mishandling and prosecutorial misconduct in his 1978 trial. His attorneys also filed at the time saying evidence pointing toward a Tyler college dean, James Mayfield, had been withheld by the State.

Mayfield was Edwards' ex-boyfriend who admitted having a sexual relationship with her three weeks before her death. He later changed his story saying he had sex with her the night before her murder and had seen her within hours of her death.

In 1999, Cook accepted as plea deal that if he pleaded no contest to the murder, his sentence would be time served. Cook accepted and was released from jail. Also in 1999, DNA evidence from Edward's underwear showed a match to Mayfield, not Cook.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Wednesday, July 19, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Kerry Max Cook is innocent of the murder of Linda Jo Edwards, ending a portion of the almost 50 year old saga. Since his plea deal in 1999, Cook was still considered a murderer in Texas. This ruling officially lifts that designation (CBS 19).

Judge Bert Richardson wrote that the case had many allegations of State misconduct and that there is plenty of evidence for Cook to be innocent. As for the family of Linda Jo Edwards, it seems there is still no closure for them into who actually killed her in 1977.

The KLTV 7 report below from 2016 gives a great history of the case.

Below is the report from CBS 19 on the recent ruling.

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