Prosecutor faces disciplinary hearing for role in Missouri man’s wrongful conviction

The Missouri Supreme Court will decide whether a former attorney with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office will have her license suspended after a man she prosecuted was wrongfully convicted.

Ricky Kidd was found guilty and spent 23 years in prison before being exonerated. He was freed in August 2019.

Amy McGowan prosecuted the case.

“The case speaks to the problem this country faces with prosecutor’s power and their misconduct in abusing that power,” Kidd said.

The Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel alleges McGowan withheld evidence about a suspect and a person of interest in the Feb. 6, 1996, double shooting in Kansas City. Gary Goodspeed Jr. and Gary Goodspeed Sr. were deposed at the prosecutor’s office three days before the start of Kidd’s March 1997 trial.

Laura Elsberry, an attorney with the disciplinary office, said that notifications about the deposition and transcripts from the deposition were never sent to Kidd’s defense attorney, Teresa Anderson.

Under American Bar Association standards, Elsberry argued, Anderson should have received notice and had the chance to attend the deposition.

A Supreme Court judge asked Elsberry what the contents of the deposition contained and if it would have helped Kidd’s case.

“I think what we’re talking about here is lost opportunity,” Elsberry said.

“It doesn’t even have to rise to the level of evidence, it could merely be information and what was lost here was the opportunity to obtain that information because Ms. Anderson wasn’t there to participate in those depositions and ask questions.”

McGowan’s attorney, John Turner, questioned statements Anderson made throughout the years as Kidd’s case made its way through the justice system, leading to his exoneration. Turner alleged that Anderson knew about the deposition, but didn’t go. He also said the deposition was brought up at the start of the trial, but Anderson didn’t say anything.

“Amy McGowan committed no ethical violations,” Turner said.

“She’s been villainized in this whole thing because what? Because somebody gets out of jail, there has to be a villain in the story and it’s become Amy McGowan.”

A disciplinary panel heard McGowan’s case in 2020 and recommended it be dismissed. The Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel rejected that decision in April 2022. Over the summer, the office filed a brief requesting McGowan’s license be suspended indefinitely without the possibility of reinstating it for at least one year.

Ricky Kidd hugs his sister, Nechelle Kidd, after being freed from the Western Missouri Correctional Center on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.
Ricky Kidd hugs his sister, Nechelle Kidd, after being freed from the Western Missouri Correctional Center on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019.

Other cases

While the disciplinary case is focused on McGowan’s actions in the Kidd case, she has been suspected of misconduct in other trials.

McGowan was accused of withholding evidence in the case against Richard Buchli II, a Kansas City attorney who spent about five years in prison for the 2000 death of his law partner before his murder conviction was overturned. Charges later were dismissed.

In 2013, the Kansas Supreme Court found McGowan, as a prosecutor in Douglas County, made improper comments during closing arguments in five cases between 2007 and 2009. In one instance, the court vacated a sentence in a child exploitation case. She was removed from her trial duties in Douglas County after that, but allowed to return to regular courtroom duties in 2014.

McGowan retired from the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office in November 2019, shortly after Kidd was freed.

In April, Keith Carnes, of Kansas City, was released from a Missouri prison after 18 years in prison. The Missouri Supreme Court determined an eyewitness’ account was not disclosed to Carnes’ defense team.

A witness also said then-Jackson County assistant prosecutor McGowan pressured her into picking Carnes.

The Star’s Luke Nozicka contributed to this story.