Criminal Procedure

‘Forgotten’ Defendant Sits in Jail for Two Years

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The federal prosecutor in St. Louis says she is concerned about the performance of a lawyer who represents a defendant sitting in jail for almost two years with apparently no action to secure his release on bond.

U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway spoke to the St. Louis Post Dispatch about the case of Joseph A. Shepard Sr., charged with intent to sell methamphetamine and gun possession. The newspaper labels Shepard “a man the system forgot.”

Lawyer Michael P. Kelly has not filed any documents on Shepard’s behalf in all of 2007 and 2008 and apparently did not seek his release on bond, the story says. “I am very concerned about his lawyer’s performance,” Hanaway told the newspaper.

“As best I can ascertain, [the judge] issued an order saying if the defense complied with certain conditions, the defendant would be bonded out. And no response was ever made to that order,” she said.

Hanaway said her office first realized Shepard was still in custody when it negotiated a possible plea bargain with Kelly in mid-July. Shepard told the newspaper that he wanted the deal, which called for a four-year sentence, but Kelly turned it down.

Prosecutors also discovered that a federal magistrate had failed to issue a ruling on evidence that Kelly had challenged in the case. After prosecutors pointed out the delay, the magistrate issued a ruling on Aug. 4 excluding evidence from a search of Shepard’s house and statements he made to investigators. But prosecutors have other evidence obtained during a traffic stop of Shepard.

Hanaway said prosecutors weren’t required to move forward with the case while the evidence ruling was pending. She also admitted, “We weren’t paying any attention.”

Kelly did not respond to requests for interviews by the Post-Dispatch. He is also a municipal court judge.

Shepard told the newspaper he had passed the time reading and praying. He said he had developed patience from his hobbies—fishing and working on cars and motorcycles. He figured, correctly it turns out, “If I just sit here long enough, something’s going to happen.”

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