- Associated Press - Thursday, June 26, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is asking a judge who threw out the conviction of a St. Louis man imprisoned for two decades in a teenager’s dance hall death to reconsider that decision.

State prosecutors say Anthony Williams’ appellate lawyer failed to include details about notes from a city prosecutor in an actual innocence petition filed last year after four previous appeals to state, city and federal courts had been denied. The judge subsequently cited those notes as one of several examples of evidence never provided to Williams’ trial attorney that could have helped his defense.

Williams has been serving a life sentence without parole in the 1993 shooting death of 14-year-old Cortez Andrews during a fight outside a teen dance. Williams was also 14 then but was certified to stand trial as an adult. A jury found him guilty of first-degree murder in the death of Andrews, the son of a St. Louis police officer, who was shot in the head shortly after the dance, a fundraiser for the PHAZE drum and bugle corps.

Two teens identified Williams in a four-person police lineup, though both acknowledged at his trial that they didn’t see who fired the gun.

The motion filed by the state on Thursday came as about 40 friends and family members gathered on the St. Louis Courthouse steps for a prayer vigil and rally urging Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce to not refile charges. Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green’s order requires Williams to either be released from prison by next week or again stand trial on new charges - a deadline the state wants made moot until its objections are fully considered.

“Ms. Joyce, I pray that you do the right thing,” said Shelly Miller, a cousin of Williams. “It’s time. Allow us to heal.”

In a written statement, Joyce’s office said it continues to review the judge’s ruling.

Members of Williams’ legal team said that after the June 18 ruling, the St. Louis prosecutor offered to release Williams with credit for time served if he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He promptly rejected the offer, said paralegal Brandy Cook.

“He doesn’t want to plead to something he didn’t do,” she said.

Among those who attended the courthouse rally was Williams’ son, who shares his father’s name and was born several months after his father was imprisoned. Supporters carried flyers displaying a recent photo of Williams from prison with one taken before his conviction under the headline, “20 years of injustice is too long. Please send our son home.”

In his ruling, Green repeatedly faulted prosecutors for not providing Williams’ previous lawyers with potentially exculpatory evidence, including three witness statements that contradicted the accounts of state witnesses who identified Williams as the shooter; police dispatch and 911 emergency tapes; and statements by Andrews’ twin, Courtney, at the crime scene naming another assailant.

The judge wrote that “evidence was suppressed by the government … either willfully or inadvertently.” He did not address Williams’ claims of innocence but decided that he didn’t receive a fair trial.

Attorney Jennifer Bukowsky, who is handling the new appeal, said the state’s motion doesn’t fundamentally alter Green’s findings. She plans to ask the judge for a hearing early next week to resolve the dispute in hopes that Williams came be freed by Independence Day.

“Even if the judge were to grant everything in their motion, the conviction would still be overturned and vacated,” she said.

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Follow Alan Scher Zagier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/azagier

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