In 1999, Ted White Jr. was convicted of child molestation in a Missouri courtroom. He would spend five years in prison before being exonerated and released. What the jury in White’s first trial did not know was that the lead detective, Richard McKinley, who was investigating the allegations against White, was having an affair with White’s wife. It is not clear when the affair began, but it is clear that Detective McKinley lied about the affair under oath and kept exculpatory evidence from the defense.
Ted White’s nightmare began when his 12 year old adopted step daughter and his wife, Tina White, accused him of being a child molester. White was eager to clear his name so he called the lead investigator, Detective McKinley, and offered to come in and make a statement. He was oblivious to the fact that McKinley was in a relationship with his wife. It is unusual for the police to refuse a suspect’s offer to make a voluntary statement, but that is exactly what Detective McKinley did, because he was not interested in the truth; he was only interested in pleasing his new girlfriend. White was arrested and charged with 13 felony counts including rape, child molestation, sodomy, and child molestation.
In a pre-trial deposition, White’s attorney, Matthew O’Connor asked McKinley two important questions. First he asked if McKinley had any personal interest in the case. The prosecutor, Jennifer Mettler, had anticipated this type of question. She was aware of the affair between McKinley and Tina White. She had arranged to signal McKinley by clearing her throat during questioning if he needed to disclose the affair. McKinley hesitated and waited for a signal before answering O’Connor’s question. When there was no signal, he said “no.” O’Connor then asked “Did you have other contact with Mrs. White other than what you have put in your reports?” McKinley again answered “no.” At this point he had been in a relationship with Tina White for at least 10 months, possibly longer.
Detective McKinley did not stop at perjury in his quest to have an innocent man convicted and sent to prison. The accuser, 12 year old Jami White, kept a diary. In the diary she wrote wonderful things about her father, she never mentioned any type of abuse. This diary was a crucial piece of evidence for the defense. McKinley read the diary and, instead of collecting it as evidence, turned it over to Tina White. The diary then disappeared.
Immediately after White’s conviction, O’Connor learned of the affair when a citizen came forward with the information. When O’Connor hinted to Mettler that he had just learned something damaging to the prosecution she admitted that the prosecution was aware of the affair. Because this information was not turned over to the defense, White was eventually granted a new trial. The second trial ended with a mistrial when the jury deadlocked 11 to 1 for acquittal. The 11 jurors were so sure of White’s innocence that they were active in trying to secure his release after the mistrial. They were vocal in the media and wrote letters to the Missouri Attorney General asking that the charges be dismissed.
Two years later the third trial would end with White’s acquittal, but not before he had been financially ruined and not before seven years of his life had been lost. Five of those years were lost in prison, where as a “child molester” he endured brutal beatings.
While White was living through hell in prison, McKinley married Tina White and became $500,000 richer. Because of his conviction Tina White was awarded all of Ted White’s assets when she divorced him.
After White was exonerated he filed a lawsuit against the city of Lee’s Summit, Missouri, the chief of police and Detective McKinley. In 2006, as part of a settlement that would remove the city from the lawsuit, Lee’s Summit city government agreed to pay “any final judgment entered by the court in favor of White”. In 2008 the court ruled that McKinley had violated White’s due process rights by withholding evidence. The court awarded White almost $16 million. Now, Lee’s Summit is refusing to pay. Lee’s Summit’s mayor, Randy Rhoads, said that “Despite an indemnification agreement which removed the city as a defendant in this case, it has been determined after an extensive review that paying for any damages would be a violation of city ordinances.” Rhoads went on to say that when the agreement was signed there was no way to know that the verdict would rule that McKinley violated White’s Constitutional rights and that “In light of the verdict, it’s unlawful under ordinance for the city to indemnify the defendant, Lee’s Summit city ordinances specifically state that if a city employee violates the rights of another person, the city shall not indemnify that employee.” White has yet to receive a dime and now must endure more of our “justice” system in order to get his restitution. White has apologized to the taxpayers of Lee’s Summit saying “I’m going to have to fight again and it’s going to cost the city more money,” White said. “I apologize to the citizens of Lee’s Summit, but I have to do what is right.”
Detective McKinley eventually lost his job, but since the city of Lee’s Summit indemnified him from having to pay damages, he himself will not be responsible for restitution. He has also never been charged with perjury.