Attorneys for Alabama Death Row inmate William Ernest Kuenzel have filed an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking a ruling that would allow him to present new evidence to prove his innocence. Kuenzel was convicted in 1987 of the shooting death of a convenience store clerk, but his case has gained support from various figures, including actors and former district attorneys. The appeal argues that critical exculpatory evidence was withheld during Kuenzel’s trial, which could undermine his conviction, and questions whether Alabama’s procedural rules are fair in such cases.
“Yet the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Mr. Kuenzel’s habeas petition as untimely under Alabama Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(c), which requires that successive state habeas petitions based on newly discovered evidence be brought within six months of the discovery of that evidence,” the petition states. “By this rule, Mr. Kuenzel was required to file a successive state habeas petition while his federal habeas proceedings were pending, even though Alabama Code SS 6-5-440 would have required the dismissal of such a duplicative suit.”
The statement also urges the Alabama Legislature to enact legislation to create an Innocence Commission. The State Senate passed legislation earlier this year modeled off of a North Carolina bill, the statement note.
Whether it is fundamentally unfair and violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to require a capital habeas petitioner to bring a successive state habeas petition within six months of the discovery of previously unproduced evidence pursuant to Alabama Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.2(c), when Alabama Code § 6-5-440 would have simultaneously barred such a suit.
William E. Kuenzel, who spent over three decades on Alabama’s death row, passed away at the age of 60 from cancer at Holman Correctional Institution. Despite gaining support from prominent figures and arguing for a new hearing based on withheld evidence, his appeals were unsuccessful, and he was convicted for the 1987 murder of a convenience store clerk.
William Ernest Kuenzel passed away on February 19, 2022 following a long battle with cancer, bringing to a close his decades long struggle to prove his innocence and clear his name from a wrongful conviction.