NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – Lawyers for convicted killer Kimberly Kessler suggest in a new court filing that her conviction was a “miscarriage of justice which warrants a new trial.”
The lawyers say the evidence is in a post-trial interview that one of the jurors did with News4JAX, and they’ve asked the judge to be allowed to question all of the jurors.
Kessler, 54, was found guilty in December of first-degree murder in the death of her Nassau County salon co-worker Joleen Cummings, a mother of three who disappeared in 2018. Kessler was also found guilty of theft because she was seen on surveillance dumping Cummings’ vehicle in a parking lot the night she was last seen alive.
In the July 25 filing, defense lawyers say that during jury selection, the jurors who were eventually picked all said that if they had any knowledge to Kessler’s mental condition, they would set that aside and not allow it to influence their deliberations.
In the interview that the unidentified juror gave to News4JAX anchor and reporter Scott Johnson, she said that Kessler tried to convince everyone she was incompetent, but that the jury rejected that.
“She was very clever to start out. She knew what she was doing,” the juror said. “But now she wants to say that she was crazy. She’s not competent.”
But the jury never saw Kessler during her trial. Kessler, who has a history of outbursts in court, was not present for even one day of the trial because she repeatedly shouted false claims about a former member of her defense team being related to Cummings.
“None of the jurors selected for the panel indicated they had any knowledge of Ms. Kessler’s mental condition, or if they did, they agreed they would set it aside and not allow it to influence their deliberations,” the motion says.
The defense motion goes on later to say, “If the question of defendant’s competence was discussed in the jury room, it was improper, and resulted in defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
In the interview with News4JAX. the juror talked about why some wanted to hear from Kessler herself.
“Some of the jurors asked for her to be in there because they wanted to see what her response was when the state people got up and everything,” the juror said. “But I guess it was very difficult because we didn’t know what her emotion was at the time.”
News4JAX reached out to attorney Latonya Williams Shelton, who is not associated with this case. She explained why this points to an important issue.
“So now the defense counsel is saying what was it that was talked about in the jury deliberation room? Were we talking about the evidence that was presented and whether or not Ms. Kessler was guilty? Or were we talking about is she trying to use this incompetency defense to get out of this? And I think this is important because it somewhat shows a bias because we should only be, or the jury should only be, looking at the evidence that was presented,” she said.
The State Attorney’s Office has so far not responded to the defense motion.
The judge has not ruled on the motion to question the jurors.
Kessler in January was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole and is currently serving her sentence at the Florida Women’s Reception Center in Marion County.