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CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (CLARKSVILLENOW) – A woman convicted of murdering her toddler son had her conviction overturned and sent back for a new trial after the state Court of Criminal Appeals found that she was “denied the effective assistance of counsel” because of the performance of her Clarksville attorney.
On Feb. 7, 2009, Keegan Metz, 23 months old, died from multiple blunt force trauma injuries. His parents, former soldier Joshua Starner and ex-wife Caitlyn Metz, were charged in the killing.
In May 2014, a Montgomery County jury found Metz and Starner guilty of two counts of felony murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect. Two months later, each was sentenced to. Granville Ritchie, the man who raped and murdered 9-year-old Felecia Williams in 2014, was sentenced to death Friday. The child's mother and a judge had some parting words. 'May God have mercy on your soul.' Pages in category '2014 deaths' The following 200 pages are in this category, out of approximately 9,205 total. This list may not reflect recent changes ( learn more ). Legally premature death warrant. Stay granted by the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas on July 1, 2014 to permit Stollar to pursue state post-conviction appeals to which all Pennsylvania prisoners are entitled as a matter of law. Legally premature death warrant.
In May 2014, a Montgomery County jury found Metz and Starner guilty of two counts of felony murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect. Two months later, each was sentenced to life in prison, plus 15-year sentences for abuse and neglect charges.
The conviction was upheld in its first appeal in 2015. But the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals has now found that Metz was “denied the effective assistance of counsel” based on several factors, including the defense lawyer’s failure to present witnesses and investigate evidence that might have helped his client.
The court vacated and set aside the conviction and sent the case back to Montgomery County for a new trial, according to court records obtained by Clarksville Now.
“Our family is just so grateful to the Court of Criminal appeals for vacating her conviction. We’re just so grateful,” said Metz’s mother, Cathy Metz.
“My daughter Caitlyn, she’s just looking forward to having her story heard, and being able to tell her story. She’s just beside herself,” she continued.
While declining to comment on the evidence or the first trial, Metz’s new attorney, Patrick McNally of Nashville, said, “We are incredibly grateful to the Court of Criminal Appeals for vacating her conviction and remanding it back for a new trial so that Caitlyn Metz’s full story or full proof can be presented.”
Metz’s attorney during the first trial was Edward DeWerff of Clarksville. When reached Tuesday by Clarksville Now, DeWerff said he hadn’t read the opinion.
“I think they probably said I did an insufficient job, and if that’s what they said, then that’s the way it is, and she’ll get another bite at the apple,” DeWerff said.
The opinion, written by Judge Robert Holloway Jr., gave a scathing summary of the defense failures, ruling that the actions amounted to “cumulative error,” a finding Holloway said is rare.
“Here, trial counsel failed to approach the most basic standards of professional conduct. He did not speak to anyone involved in the investigation except ‘whoever authored the autopsy report’ and ‘two or three’ police officers,” the opinion states.
The court enumerated a series of neglected interviews and efforts.
“In fact, he (DeWerff) did not call any witnesses at trial. He did not cross-examine eleven of the fifteen witnesses at trial. He never met with Co-Defendant’s (Starner’s) counsel, Ms. (Sherri) Phillips. Given the gravity of the criminal charges against Petitioner (Metz), trial counsel could not have reasonably elected to rely exclusively on a grocery store receipt for his defense and to forego all other investigation.”
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“We conclude that trial counsel’s almost complete inattention to Petitioner’s (Metz’s) case was deficient performance,” the opinion states.
“Thus, we conclude that the accumulation of a myriad of errors prejudiced Petitioner, requiring reversal based on cumulative error.”
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Keely Quinlan contributed to this report.