After a one-day bench trial on September 25, 2002, Jackson County (Illinois) Circuit Court Judge E. Dan Kimmel convicted 23-year-old Maurice Harper of murder as an accomplice in the killing of Kenji Tipton during an impromptu outdoor rap contest at a party on May 31 in Murphysboro, Illinois. Harper was not accused of actually killing Tipton. Rather it was alleged that Harper had passed the murder weapon, a handgun, to his co-defendant, Daron Woods, who shot Tipton to death.
After the trial, Harper filed two motions for a new trial, arguing, among other things, that his privately retained defense lawyer had ignored his desire to testify, that the prosecution had withheld exculpatory information, that Murphysboro police had coerced witnesses to falsely incriminate him, and that evidence had come to light indicating that Woods’s girlfriend, Carla Felten, had brought the murder weapon to the party where the slaying occurred.
Judge Kimmel denied both motions, the second on the ground that it was untimely. State law allowed new-trial motions “within 30 days following the entry of a finding or the return of a verdict,” but Harper’s second motion had not been filed until December 31, 2002 — 97 days after the verdict. On January 2, 2003, Kimmel sentenced Harper to 25 years in prison.
On March 26, 2004, the Illinois Appellate Court unanimously reversed Kimmel, holding that under Illinois case law the trial court retained jurisdiction until sentencing. The case was remanded to the trial court for a hearing on the merits of the motion for a new trial, which was granted in November 2005. In July 2006, Harper was released on bond, and the prosecution dismissed the case on March 12, 2007.
— Center on Wrongful Convictions