Kenneth Isom was sentenced to death by the State of Arkansas for the murder of an elderly man. According to court documents Kenneth Isom would force his way into a home where he would sexually assault and elderly woman then attempted to kill her. Kenneth Isom would murder an elderly man inside of the home. Kenneth Isom was convicted and sentenced to death.
Kenneth Isom 2021 Information
ADC Number 000960
Name: Isom, Kenneth
Race BLACK Sex MALE Hair Color BLACK Eye Color BROWN
Height 71 inches Weight 211 lbs.
Birth Date 06/03/1967
Initial Receipt Date 12/20/2001
Facility Varner Supermax
Kenneth Isom More News
Kenneth Isom, a Drew County man sentenced to death in December 2001 for the stabbing and bludgeoning death of a 79-year-old Monticello man and the rape and attempted murder of the man’s elderly caretaker, has lost another appeal.
The 51-year-old death row inmate contended that the Drew County Circuit Court abused its discretion in dismissing his petition for a writ of error coram nobis because the State suppressed evidence (a Brady violation), limiting discovery for an evidentiary hearing, and denying his motion that Circuit Judge Sam Pope recuse.
The Arkansas Supreme Court found that the Drew County Circuit Court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing his Isom’s petition, did not abuse its discretion in limiting discovery, and did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion for recusal.
“I am pleased with the ruling but very unhappy that the jury’s verdict has not yet been implemented,” said 10th Judicial District Prosecutor Thomas Deen.
Shortly before 8 p.m. on April 2, 2001, a man knocked on the door of 79-year-old William “Bill” Burton’s mobile home in Monticello where he was being cared for by a 71-year-old woman. The woman answered the door, and the man pushed his way inside and demanded money.
Wielding a pair of broken scissors, the man ordered Burton and the woman to lie on the floor of the mobile home where Burton was stabbed and beaten with a lamp. The woman was raped, choked, and beaten. They were discovered the following morning by a neighbor who called police.
Burton died, but the woman survived the attack and subsequently picked Kenneth Isom, then 34, from a photo lineup. At trial, she pointed to Isom in the courtroom, identifying him as her assailant.
In addition to the woman’s eyewitness account of the crimes, DNA evidence indicated there is a one in 57 million chance that another male of the black race is the man who raped the woman.
A Drew County jury in 2001 convicted Isom of capital murder, attempted capital murder, aggravated robbery, residential burglary, and two counts of rape. He was sentenced to death for the capital-murder and received two life sentences for the rapes, a life sentence for aggravated robbery, 60 years for attempted capital murder and 40 years for residential burglary. All of his sentences were ordered to be served consecutively.
His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal. Subsequently, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the denial of Isom’s Rule 37 petition (ineffective assistance of counsel) and a petition for additional DNA testing. Isom later filed an application for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. The federal district court ordered Isom to return to state court to exhaust his state remedies.
In a 4-3 decision in May 2015, the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Isom was entitled to new hearing in Drew County Circuit Court to consider eight claims. In June 2015, Isom filed a petition for writ of error coram nobis in Drew County Circuit Court. A writ of error coram nobis is a remedy that is available in compelling circumstances to address fundamental errors. The hearing for the petition was set for December 2015.
Before the hearing, Isom moved for discovery and for the recusal of Circuit Court Judge Sam Pope. Both motions were denied. In its order denying discovery, the Drew County Circuit Court said any witnesses or evidence that Isom’s attorneys needed could be subpoenaed to the hearing. Following the hearing and the submission of post-hearing briefs, the circuit court dismissed Isom’s petition. Isom appealed that decision.
In reinvesting the Drew County Circuit Court with jurisdiction to consider Isom’s claims, the Arkansas Supreme Court tasked the circuit court with resolving factual disputes raised in Isom’s application. When acting as a fact-finder, the circuit court determines the credibility of witnesses, resolves conflicts and inconsistencies in testimony, and assesses the weight to be given the evidence.
Isom asserted in his petition that the surviving victim was shown two photo-lineups that included his picture: a lineup of stock photographs on April 4, and a poster-sized lineup of enlarged photographs on April 5. He claimed that when the woman was shown the stock photographs, she failed to identify him as her attacker. The Drew County Circuit Court disagreed.
On appeal, Isom contends that the circuit court erred in finding that there was no failed identification on April 4.
To provide context for Isom’s arguments, the Arkansas Supreme Court quoted extensively from the Drew County Circuit Court’s order which stated that it is Isom’s burden to convince the court that a photo line-up was shown to the woman on April 4, 2001 and he failed to do so.
According to the Drew County Circuit Court’s order, the photo lineup was in fact shown to the woman April 5, 2001, at about 12:54 p.m. when she was a patient in the Intensive Care Unit of Drew Memorial Hospital in Monticello. The photo lineup was admitted at Isom’s trial.
Isom, however, argued that a photo lineup was shown by the police investigators to the woman on April 4, 2001, based on a nurse’s note, which stated: “Police here asking for (the surviving victim) to ID suspect from photos. Attempts ID. Police officers to enlarge photos and bring them back tomorrow. (The surviving victim) agrees to view enlarged photos tomorrow.”
The nurse who wrote the note testified at the hearing. She said she had no independent memory of what occurred and offered no testimony about what she meant by “attempt.”
The Court considered additional evidence on that particular issue as well. At Isom’s trial, the surviving victim was questioned on cross-examination by defense counsel about her identification, specifically the photo lineup she viewed on April 5, 2001. The text of that cross-examination follows:
Q: And you looked at the picture?
A: (Nodding affirmatively)
Q: Did you have your glasses on when you looked at the pictures?
A: I’m not sure about the day. They brought me some, a smaller sheet of pictures, and they told me to be sure that, to take time to look at them real good and everything. And I told them it might be better to wait till I got my, some glasses, you know, well, my glasses were all broke up at Bill’s (murder victim’s) house. And so (the eye doctor) fixed a pair of glasses for me. And so that’s when I looked at the pictures again and I picked out, I picked out the man.
The initial emergency room report of (the surviving victim’s) admission to Drew Memorial Hospital shows she was admitted to the emergency room on April 3, 2001 at 9:36 a.m. Other evidence reflects she was transported there by ambulance. The chief complaint being “assaulted.” Other portions of the exhibit show she complained of sexual assault the night before. She had numerous injuries described in the exhibit, including multiple bruises and lacerations in her facial area, and facial fractures. A doctor’s note, dated April 4, 2001, indicated that the woman’s “orbits are particularly swollen and known fractures are present. Her eyes are bloodshot and hemorrhagic conjunctivitis.” The doctor further noted that an ophthalmic consultation would be obtained. The records further note such a consultation took place the same day at 11:45 a.m. The Court was unable to read all of the note but could read enough to find that eye injuries were confirmed by the examination.
Prior to trial, a motion was filed to suppress a photo line-up that was admitted into trial evidence. At a hearing on that motion, a police investigator and eye doctor both testified. The police investigator testified that he was unaware of any other lineup being shown, but there was some discussion in several places of a prior photo line-up. The proof showed that the woman had been assaulted on the evening of April 2. On April 5, two police investigators went to Drew Memorial Hospital to see her. A police investigator testified that the woman had been given some medications to “calm her.” They spoke with her, but she could not see them because her eyes were swollen shut and she needed her glasses, so they decided to wait to show her the photo line-up.
During the delay, the eye doctor’s lab prepared another set of glasses for the woman, to replace the glasses broken in her attack. The eye doctor testified that he took the new glasses to the hospital and fitted them on the woman because of the swelling on her facial area. He further testified that she stated after they were fitted she could see the clock on the wall across the hospital room, actually telling them the time from the clock.
Later, after that fitting at 12:54 p.m., three police investigators went back to the hospital and showed the woman the photo line-up at issue which was admitted at trial and from which Isom was identified.
“From all this evidence, both direct and circumstantial, the Court is of the firm conclusion that no second array, which is the basis of this argument, was shown to (the victim) on April 4 or April 5,” the Arkansas Supreme Court said. “Since the Court finds that this prepared photo array was not in fact shown to (the woman), it follows that this was not in fact evidence favorable to defendant within the meaning of Brady. This argument is thus rejected.
Having set out the relevant findings, the Arkansas Supreme Court turned its attention to Isom’s contention that the Drew County Circuit Court erred in finding that there was no failed identification on April 4. Isom argued that the Drew County Circuit Court erred in (1) discounting the nurse’s note, (2) relying on the woman’s misquoted testimony, and (3) crediting a police investigator’s suppression-hearing testimony.