Criminal Justice

This Week in Innocence: Why the Hell is Kenny Hulshof Still Practicing Law?


Last week, Missouri Circuit Court Judge Judge Warren McElwain declared Dale Helmig innocent of killing his mother in 1993. Helmig was convicted in 1996. In his ruling, McElwain declared Helmig to be "the victim of a fundamental miscarriage of justice."

Many factors contributed to Helmig's conviction, including an inept public defender, false police testimony, and snitch testimony from inmates. But McElwain went out of his way to criticize the behavior of former Missouri prosecutor Kenny Hulshof.

In his opinion, McElwain cited numerous instances where either Hulshof or Schollmeyer presented testimony that was later shown to be false and that they should have known was false. One section is titled "Kenny Hulshof knew or should have known that the testimony presented was false that Dale Helmig tacitly admitted killing his mother."

In another section, McElwain states that Hulshof made improper use of unsupported testimony that Dale Helmig and his mother had been in a fight in which Helmig allegedly threw hot coffee in his mother's face. That altercation, at a restaurant, actually involved Norma Helmig and Ted Helmig, her estranged husband.

"Even though the prosecution could not find a witness to substantiate this allegation, that did not stop them from trying to put the unproven and very inflammatory fact before the jury," McElwain wrote.

This is the second case in two years in which Hulshof has been cited by a judge for misconduct that helped convict an innocent person. In February 2009, Missouri Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan declared Joshua Kezer innocent of the 1992 murder of college student Angela Mischelle Lawless. Kezer was convicted in 1994. From the A.P. report last year:

[Callahan's] 44-page decision included a stinging rebuke of Hulshof, saying he withheld key evidence from defense attorneys and embellished details in his closing arguments.

Other than a statement Tuesday in which he affirmed his belief that Kezer is guilty, Hulshof has declined to comment.

The state's prosecution was based on the testimony of another suspect in Lawless' death who said he saw Kezer at a nearby convenience store on the night of the killing. But he gave conflicting testimony and three jail inmates who claimed Kezer had confessed to the killing later acknowledged lying in hopes of getting reduced sentences.

Back in 2008, the A.P. found five other cases in which Hulshof was accused of prosecutorial misconduct. So what has happened to Hulshof? For starters, he parlayed his tough-on-crime record as a prosecutor into a run for Congress, where he served for six terms. In 2008, he was the GOP nominee for governor of Missouri. He nearly became the president of the University of Missouri at Columbia. Currently, he has offices in Kansas City, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. as a lobbyist for the white shoe law firm Polsinelli Shughart.

A couple weeks ago, a Reason commenter wrote that convicting an innocent person of murder ought have a similar effect on a prosecutor's career that, say, amputating the wrong limb would have on a doctor's. That sounds about right. At minimum it demonstrates a degree of negligence that ought to bar a prosecutor from ever prosecuting a case again. He has destroyed an innocent person's life, prolonged suffering for the victim's family and, of coruse, allowed the actual murderer to get away with the crime. If it can be shown that a prosecutor's deliberate misconduct contributed to a wrongful conviction, he should lose his license to practice law.

Hulshof has done it twice. That we know of. And it's not like no one in Missouri knew about his aggressiveness. Yet he not only gets to continue practicing law as a jet-setting lobbyist, thanks to absolute immunity he'll never have to pay a dime of the fat salary those aggressive tactics won him to Joshua Kezer or Dale Helmig.

NEXT: The Chilling Effect of Grand Jury Subpoenas (and Secrecy)

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  1. Some have claimed that Kenny Hulshoff herds sheep.

    1. I hear Joel Pile and Kenny Hulshoff are besties.

  2. This Week in Innocence: Why the Hell is Kenny Hulshoff Still Practicing Law Alive?

    I say give him a 10 minute head start from his victims, which is more than he ever gave them.

    1. That's barbaric.

      He should be tried before a jury of the people he fucked over then hanged on fucking pay-per-view.

      I'd pay 20 bucks to see this scum swing.

      1. Also, how did Balko find a commenter suggesting a malpractice type thingy? I thought we were all bloodthirsty maniacs when it came to shit like this.

        Really, who here thinks that this guy should be let off with having an insurance company pay off his vicitms? Now, who thinks he should fucking swing?

        1. Probably ProL. It sounds like his style of non-bloodthirsty, level-headed justice. Damn his peaceful ethos.

          Thing is, it's malpractice when it's unintentional. When the doc cuts off the wrong limb on purpose, it rises to the level of criminal misconduct and should be treated as such, with Richard Dawson hosting the trial.

          1. Well, for negligence or incompetence, yes, but for gross negligence or willful misconduct, I think something more than mere malpractice applies.

            It's a sad truth that all of the ethics requirements for retaining your license and all of the laws requiring, sometimes under fairly severe penalties, things like making exculpatory evidence public, etc. are, in practice, just so much window dressing. I've seen attorneys file frivolous suits, act unethically in open court, and so on without any repercussions. Absolutely ridiculous and one of the reasons our system is such a mess.

            1. Well, for negligence or incompetence, yes, but for gross negligence or willful misconduct, I think something more than mere malpractice applies.

              Televised human hunt? Please say human hunt.

              I smell a new Discovery series.

              1. Don't be ridiculous--we're not barbarians.

                Gladiatorial games.

                1. Deal, if we can get Kari Byron to host and Sig Hansen to referee.

                  1. I'm not sure that gladiatorial games have referees, but I have no objection to them being involved.

                    1. Well, I get the feeling that Sig's reffing would be more along the lines of the Black Knight. "Ahhhh, get up you little girl and fight. That amputation is just a flesh wound."

                  2. With color commentator Chumlee from Pawn Stars.

                    Oh, it is on.

                    1. None of this modern crap, either. Pure Roman. Fights against beasts, mixed weapons (e.g., trident and net versus short sword and shield), and horrific death.

                    2. What about ligers, can we use ligers? They have been around for at least 200 years.

                    3. I shall grant you this exception.

                    4. I plead for the Star Trek fight music as the opening music.

  3. Kenny's dead! You bastards!!!

    1. Only in our dreams

  4. he'll never have to pay a dime of the fat salary those aggressive tactics won him to Joshua Kezer or Dale Helmig.

    Can't they sue him?
    If so, why not?

    1. No they cant sue him--see the other articles around here and The Agitator regarding prosecutorial immunity. They can however file a bar complaint against him in any state where he is licensed to practice law, and he certainly should be disbarred (a la Nifong). I would be interested to know if anyone has filed a compaint.

      1. "prosecutorial immunity"

        It's just been revoked.

  5. You know, rather than getting kicked in the nuts every week, I think we ought to assemble a team of crack operatives to track down assholes like this and kick them in the nuts. Much fairer system, if you ask me.

  6. How come so many complete dickheads are named Kenny?

      1. You're not disproving his argument, guy.

  7. Yes! Bring on the sheep fucking!

  8. That asshole should be disbarred, obviously. On the other hand, Dale Helmig is no INNOCENT. He killed his mother. Go on line and read all the evidence. The order has been appealed and the guy will probably be retried. That does not excuse what this supposed servant of the people engaged in.

    1. Judge McElwain disagrees with you:

      "There was no physical evidence linking Petitioner to the murder," McElwain wrote in his decision. "The thin circumstantial evidence has been substantially weakened by the newly discovered evidence previously discussed. This case presents the rare circumstance in which no credible evidence remains from the first trial to support the conviction. This Court determines based on the record that under these rare circumstances, there is clear and convincing evidence of Dale Helmig's innocence. As such his conviction and sentence cannot stand and must be set aside."

      1. I guess we'll see. You know, it is possible that this judge is wrong. And there well may not be enough evidence to convict. I just found the fact that he was leeching off his mother, had fights with her, and his mother told his siter she was afarid of him, aas well as the fact that her purse was found in the river he he had to drive over to establish his alibi a little troubling. But then again, any exculpatory evidence the prosecutor had needed to come in.

        1. rac you should do a little research before posting. If you had even read one article you would know that every piece of what you claim as evidence has been proven to be false. Just one example is the purse you mention, it was thrown in the river several weeks after Norma's death. There was mail in it post marked after her death and in Ted Helmigs (admitted on the witness stand) possession since he had been picking up her mail.
          Really try doing a little reading up before you post you won't look so clueless

          1. Please do more research because everything you just claimed is so false. Read the transcripts

  9. What a dick.

    I see that the Attorney General of Nebraska wants to run for Senate in 2010 against Ben Nelson. Looking at his campaign website, I'm glad that he picks one of his seven issues to brag about that:

    I've worked hard as Attorney General to ensure the law applies equally to everyone. My office has aggressively prosecuted and held accountable more than 30 sworn and elected officials for their misdeeds. Those include charges brought against a former state treasurer, a University Regent and members of the law enforcement community. Both Republican and Democrat officials have been prosecuted for crimes ranging from domestic violence to theft.

    Any Attorney General who will brag about being willing to put LEOs in prison deserves at least a small measure of credit, I guess.

    I hate his bragging about helping move Sudafed behind the counter, though.

  10. "A couple weeks ago, a Reason commenter wrote that convicting an innocent person of murder ought have a similar effect on a prosecutor's career that, say, amputating the wrong limb would have on a doctor's. That sounds about right."

    I am sympathetic, but simply convicting an innocent person is more like diagnosing the flu when the patient is suffering from tuberculosis. Prosecutors will have cases where an innocent person looks guilty.

    But convicting an innocent man on evidence that should be obviously incorrect or suspect is absolutely the equivalent of operating on the wrong limb - or worse.

    Withholding evidence or buying testimony is the equivalent of operating drunk.

  11. EVERY lawyer in Missouri should be demanding his disbarment. They should also all be threatening to resign from the bar and setting up an alternative bar for the state of Missouri.

    Come on Missouri lawyers: SHOW ME.

    1. An "alternative bar"? Good luck.

      1. Why not?

        Im sure the Mizzou laws are all altangle with the current one, but when a majority of the lawyers ditch it, that can easily change.

        1. Ditching the bar would take a concerted, joint effort by the vast majority of attorneys in the state. And I'm not even sure that could be worked out logistically.

          1. I'd just get together with a few other attorneys and start a cool rogue bar.

            Florida not so long ago considered wresting control of the bar away from attorneys to the direct control of the legislature. Not sure how I feel about that, accepting that the profession is going to be regulated, one way or the other.

            1. Actually, it was wresting it from the Supreme Court, who admittedly are all attorneys. The argument was that why can the legislature pass regulations of doctors, but not attorneys? The counter-argument is that medicine is not a branch of gevernment (yet, but wait for obamacare to work its way in), but the judiciary is, and lawyers, presumably, are part of that branch.

              1. That's correct. The Florida Bar falls under the state supreme court.

                There are attorneys in all three branches. The percentage in the legislature is probably pretty high, all told. And Charlie Hamiltonian Tan Crist is an attorney.

  12. I've said before and will say again that one of the worst failures us lawyers have is that we aren't tougher on this sort of behavior. The prosecuting attorneys bar tends to be fairly powerful and ends up shouting down any attempts at discipline.

    We're trying, and things are slowly getting better. The American Bar Association has added to their model rules a requirement that prosecutors, after finding evidence of innocence for a previously convicted defendant, must turn the evidence over to defense attorneys and follow up on the evidence themselves. But we need to do more. A lot more.

    1. See my post above.

      Demanding his disbarment would be a minimal start.

      1. Why did I read that as dismemberment?

        1. Wishful thinking?

  13. It's odd that a doctor can go to prison for 30 years for overprescribing pills, while an advocate exercising her first amendment rights can be ruined by a vengeful prosecutor and a complicit, derelict judiciary.

    Hulshoff meanwhile goes on to Congress and K-street.

    And they call minarchists crazy. Cripes.

    1. Not all that odd given that lawyers are the one's making the rules.

  14. It's pretty ridiculous what it takes to get disbarred. You have to do some pretty outrageous shit before they'll go to that sanction.

    1. Where I practice (Georgia) the most common reason for disbarment is stealing client funds (usually settlement checks received in a civil suit). 2nd most common is agreeing to represent a client, doing nothing about the case, and then lying to the client/the court about it. A lot of this is related to mental health/substance abuse issues which are very common among lawyers.

      I can't recall ever hearing of a prosecutor in this state getting disbarred because their misconduct resulted in the conviction of an innocent person.

      1. Nifong's a pretty unusual case anywhere, and only because of a combination of parents with money and an enormous amount of press attention.

    2. Or just not pay the protection racket, a la former Green Bay Packers exec (and now National Football Post writer) Andrew Brandt.

  15. That's ma state.

    The guy is an extra large extra flow douche nozzle.

  16. Not trying to be that guy, but theres only one f, Hulshof. I volunteered for his 2008 campaign, always thought he was a great guy. It saddens me that he's such a jackoff

    1. always thought he was a great guy

      Really? I was a delegate at the 2008 MO GOP convention and had to listen to this douche bag give a campaign speech. It only took about 2 sentences before I could tell he was a total jackoff. He actually tried to use his wife's hotness as a point in his favor (she is not hot, btw).

  17. The only thing that will stop over reaching pr*cks like this is to pass a law that states when they have been found purposly hiding exculpatory evedence, falsifying evidence or outright lying in order to railroad an innocent person; they get to spend the length of the sentenace they intended for the wronged individual.

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