Comparison

There is no evidence apart from Harvey’s testimony that Billy committed the murder. However, there is substantial evidence that Harvey committed this murder, including the fact that:

  1.  A number of witnesses place Harvey at the crime scene just before the murder – in the presence of a man other than Billy.
  2. Harvey repeatedly lied to the police and the trial jury about what he says happened that night.
  3. The victim’s blood was found splattered on Harvey’s pants, yet Harvey has no explanation as to how it got there.
  4. There was no blood found anywhere on Billy or any of his possessions.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of what the prosecution told the jury in 1988 and the facts as they are known today – with differences highlighted in yellow.

This is the trial defense that Kuenzel could have presented to demonstrate the existence of reasonable doubt sufficient to avoid conviction had his trial not been fatally infected by rampant constitutional violations.
This is the case that the State of Alabama presented at trial to convict William Kuenzel. Unless otherwise noted, every piece of testimony below is provided by Harvey Venn.
The Background
The Parties generally agree on the events up to 8:00 p.m. on November 9, 1987. Click here to see details.
On August 1, 1987, Harvey Venn was arrested on a felony drug charge. Venn posted a $500 bond and was released from the Clay County jail. On September 15, 1987, Venn appeared before the Circuit Court of Clay County on the drug charge with retained counsel, and again on September 29, 1987, at which time the Circuit Court continued Venn’s proceedings until Monday, November 16, 1987. In order to continue to retain the services of his attorneys, including their appearance at the November 16th hearing, Venn’s attorneys demanded payment in the amount of $500, and advised Venn that the entire matter would cost him approximately $2,000-$3,000.

During this time, Venn was employed at the Madex Corporation textile factory outside of Goodwater. At some point in September 1987, Venn mentioned to a co-worker, William Kuenzel, that he wished to move out of his grandfather’s house. In response, Kuenzel offered to let Venn live in his house, rent-free, if Venn contributed to common household expenses. By allowing Venn to live with him, Kuenzel – who did not own a car – was able to ride to and from work with Venn.

Despite the fact that Venn was working and living rent-free, Venn consistently found himself in debt and without money. For example, Venn, who was 18 years old, borrowed $500 from Kuenzel, and regularly asked his girlfriend, 13-year-old Crystal Anne Floyd, to share her allowance money with him. In contrast to Venn, Kuenzel had ample funds to meet his needs, arising from a combination of his earnings from working at Madex and the marijuana/diet pills he sold to his friends. As his November 16court date approached, Venn needed to come up with $500 to pay his attorneys’ retainer fee.  Venn asked Kuenzel whether he could borrow another $500, but in light of Venn’s outstanding debt to him, Kuenzel did not express enthusiasm about the idea.

Monday, November 9, 1987, began unremarkably. Kuenzel and Venn went to work together; after work, Kuenzel and Venn hung out, drank beer and smoked marijuana; they drove together to Sylacauga and Hollins, visiting Venn’s girlfriend and Kuenzel’s parents; later that afternoon, at between 5:00-6:00 p.m., Kuenzel and Venn traveled back to Madex where Kuenzel sold diet pills (represented as “speed”) to a co-worker, Johnny Lambert.

Around 8 p.m.
Sometime before 8:00 p.m., Venn and Kuenzel returned to their shared residence in Goodwater. R3.136-14. Shortly thereafter, Venn went out again, mentioning to Kuenzel that he was going to see his friend Chris Morris who lived in Fayetteville.
Around 8:00 p.m., Venn and Kuenzel returned to the convenience store in Sylacauga whereupon Kuenzel proposed robbing the store to get some “easy money.” Around 9:00 p.m., Venn and Kuenzel left the store to go see Venn’s friend, Chris Morris who lived in Fayetteville.

Venn arrived at Morris’s house in Fayetteville around 8:00 p.m., but Morris did not appear to be at home. Venn left Morris’s house at approximately “8:35-8:40 p.m.”, and headed “back toward Hollins” to visit his girlfriend, Crystal Floyd, a distance of approximately 20 miles traveling on back-country roads. When Venn arrived at Floyd’s house, Floyd observed that Venn was “clearly high on drugs and/or alcohol and that [Venn] was acting nervous and paranoid.” Floyd also observed that Venn was alone. Venn stayed at Floyd’s house for approximately ten minutes.
Upon leaving Floyd’s house, Venn drove back towards Sylacauga to Joe Bob’s Crystal Palace convenience store, a distance of approximately 10 miles.
On the way to Morris’s house, Kuenzel said that they did not have time to visit Morris if they were going to rob the convenience store. Venn agreed, turned the car around and drove back towards Sylacauga to Joe Bob’s Crystal Palace convenience store.
At the convenience store
Venn arrived at the convenience store and used the restroom. Upon exiting the restroom, Venn spotted an old friend of his from school, David Pope. As Venn explained it, “He [David Pope] came around [the] bldg. I ain’t pulled up [to the store] w/nobody … I was alone.” Pope, a white male, and Venn spoke together while seated inside of Venn’s car. During this time, Venn recalls saying “hi” to Phillip Roberts. Venn also saw Wayne Culligan, and noticed that Culligan was with approximately three other people.
Venn and Kuenzel arrived back at the convenience store around 10:00 p.m. During this time, Venn recalls saying “hi” to Phillip Roberts. Venn also saw Wayne Culligan, and noticed that Culligan was with approximately three other people. Venn and Kuenzel then left the convenience store again, apparently because customers were still present, but returned to the store around 11:00 p.m.
Entirely consistent with Venn’s statements, ten individuals independently observed the following that evening between 10:00 p.m. and 11:10 p.m.:  (i) Venn was there; (ii) Venn’s car was there; and (iii) Venn was seated inside his car with an unidentified white male:
Consistent with Venn’s statements that he was at the store between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., but inconsistent with Venn’s statements that he and Kuenzel left the store between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., ten individuals independently observed the following that evening between 10:00 p.m. and 11:10 p.m.: (i) Venn was there; (ii) Venn’s car was there; and (iii) Venn was seated inside his car with an unidentified white male:
1. Dale Templin stated that, after playing in a basketball game, he arrived at the convenience store around 10:15 p.m. and observed two males sitting in Venn’s car. Templin stayed at the store “for about 10 minutes,” and the two males still were seated in Venn’s car when he left. Templin recalls that the driver of the car nodded his head at Wayne Culligan.
1. Dale Templin stated that, after playing in a basketball game, he arrived at the convenience store around 10:15 p.m. and observed two males sitting in Venn’s car. Templin stayed at the store “for about 10 minutes,” and the two males still were seated in Venn’s car when he left. Templin recalls that the driver of the car nodded his head at Wayne Culligan.
2. Wayne Culligan, who was with Templin after the basketball game, also testified that Venn’s car was parked outside of the convenience store when he arrived at 10:15 p.m., and that two white males were seated inside of Venn’s car.
2. Wayne Culligan, who was with Templin after the basketball game, also testified that Venn’s car was parked outside of the convenience store when he arrived at 10:15 p.m., and that two white males were seated inside of Venn’s car.
3. After refereeing a basketball game, James Clement arrived at the convenience store at 10:15 p.m. Like Templin and Culligan, Clement also observed two white males sitting in Venn’s car, and later was able to identify Venn as the person in the driver’s seat. Additionally, Clement recalls that when he left the store 10 minutes later, the two males “were still there.”
3. After refereeing a basketball game, James Clement arrived at the convenience store at 10:15 p.m. Like Templin and Culligan, Clement also observed two white males sitting in Venn’s car, and later was able to identify Venn as the person in the driver’s seat. Additionally, Clement recalls that when he left the store 10 minutes later, the two males “were still there.”
4. Like Templin, Culligan, and Clement, Larry Pruitt was at the convenience store and also observed two white males seated inside a car at around 10:30 p.m.
4. Like Templin, Culligan, and Clement, Larry Pruitt was at the convenience store and also observed two white males seated inside a car at around 10:30 p.m.
5. Phillip Roberts recalls that he was at the convenience store sometime after 10:30 p.m., and spoke with Venn for a few minutes. Although Roberts observed a man sitting in Venn’s car, he could not identify this person because the car window was fogged.
5. Phillip Roberts recalls that he was at the convenience store sometime after 10:30 p.m., and spoke with Venn for a few minutes. Although Roberts observed a man sitting in Venn’s car, he could not identify this person because the car window was fogged.
6. Jackie Castleberry was with Roberts, and also observed two males in the vehicle parked at the convenience store.
6. Jackie Castleberry was with Roberts, and also observed two males in the vehicle parked at the convenience store.
7. Tammy Allen was with both Roberts and Castleberry at the convenience store that evening at some point after 10:30 p.m. Allen too observed two white males seated in Venn’s car.
7. Tammy Allen was with both Roberts and Castleberry at the convenience store that evening at some point after 10:30 p.m. Allen too observed two white males seated in Venn’s car.
8. While driving by the convenience store between 10:00 and 10:45 p.m., April Harris recalls seeing Venn’s car parked outside.
8. While driving by the convenience store between 10:00 and 10:45 p.m., April Harris recalls seeing Venn’s car parked outside, and Venn and Kuenzel inside the convenience store (although Venn testified that he never entered the store).
9. Similarly, Crystal Epperson, the driver of the car in which Harris was a passenger, recalls that between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m., she observed Venn’s car parked outside of the convenience store.
9. Similarly, Crystal Epperson, the driver of the car in which Harris was a passenger, recalls that between 10:30 and 10:45 p.m., she observed Venn’s car parked outside of the convenience store.
10. Dan Lasser likely was the last customer inside the convenience store that evening before the murder took place. Lasser recalls that around 11:00 p.m. he went inside the convenience store for 10 minutes, and that he observed Venn’s vehicle parked outside. “The last sale shown on the cash register at the convenience store was 11:05 p.m.”
10. Dan Lasser likely was the last customer inside the convenience store that evening before the murder took place. Lasser recalls that around 11:00 p.m. he went inside the convenience store for 10 minutes, and that he observed Venn’s vehicle parked outside. “The last sale shown on the cash register at the convenience store was 11:05 p.m.”
Thus, each of the foregoing ten witnesses – Templin, Culligan, Clement, Pruitt, Roberts, Castleberry, Allen, Harris, Epperson, and Lasser – separately confirmed that, between 10:00 p.m. and 11:10 p.m., Venn was at the convenience store and was seated in his car for a period of time with another white male. Although none of the ten witnesses were able to identify the person with whom Venn was speaking inside his car, Venn identified that individual as David Pope1.
Thus, each of the foregoing ten witnesses – Templin, Culligan, Clement, Pruitt, Roberts, Castleberry, Allen, Harris, Epperson, and Lasser – separately confirmed that, between 10:00 p.m. and 11:10 p.m., Venn was at the convenience store and was seated in his car for a period of time with another white male. Although none of the ten witnesses were able to identify the person with whom Venn was speaking inside his car, Venn identified that individual as William Kuenzel.
The Crime
With his court date looming and the urgent need to obtain $500 to pay his attorneys’ retainer fee weighing heavily on his mind, and having already spent all the money from the paycheck he received the previous Friday, Venn waited until after Lasser left the convenience store to act.
With his court date looming and the urgent need to obtain $500 to pay his attorneys’ retainer fee weighing heavily on his mind, and having already spent all the money from the paycheck he received the previous Friday, Venn and Kuenzel waited until after Lasser left the convenience store to act.
Venn first placed a paper sack over the rear license plate on his car. Next, Venn made sure that no one was around before grabbing the .16 gauge shotgun he borrowed from a co-worker, Sam Gibbons, and entered the convenience store to commit a robbery.
Kuenzel first placed a paper sack over the rear license plate on his car. Next, Kuenzel made sure that no one was around before grabbing the .16 gauge shotgun he borrowed from his stepfather, Glenn Kuenzel, and entered the convenience store to commit a robbery.
Intending only to frighten the store clerk, Venn laid the shotgun over the counter and – quoting Venn’s own words – told the clerk, Linda Jean Offord, to “give him the money.” Ms. Offord responded, “do you mean the money in the register,” and Venn replied “Yeah.” Defiantly, Ms. Offord told Venn, “Well, you can’t have it, go ahead and pull the trigger.”
Intending only to frighten the store clerk, Kuenzel laid the shotgun over the counter and – quoting Venn’s words – told the clerk, Linda Jean Offord, to “give him the money.” Ms. Offord responded, “do you mean the money in the register,” and Kuenzel replied “Yeah.” Defiantly, Ms. Offord told Kuenzel, “Well, you can’t have it, go ahead and pull the trigger.”
An altercation ensued between Venn and Ms. Offord, and Venn was struck in the left eye and left arm. During the course of the struggle, Venn, whose faculties still were impaired from an afternoon of drug and alcohol abuse, tensed up and pulled the trigger on the shotgun fatally wounding Ms. Offord from “point-blank range.” Venn had not meant to discharge his weapon. Now, staring down at Ms. Offord, whose pierced lung left her gasping for air, Venn panicked. Venn fled the store without taking a single dollar from the register2.
Kuenzel shot Ms. Offord, fatally wounding her from “point-blank range.” Kuenzel had not meant to discharge his weapon. Kuenzel fled the store without taking a single dollar from the register.2
As Venn sped away from the store, he recalled seeing a car following behind him as he headed back to Goodwater from Sylacauga. Diane Mason was the driver of the vehicle Venn observed, and Mason confirms that she observed Venn’s car’s license plate covered with something.
As Venn and Kuenzel sped away from the store, Venn recalled seeing a car following behind him as he headed back to Goodwater from Sylacauga. Diane Mason was the driver of the vehicle Venn observed, and Mason confirms that she observed Venn’s car’s license plate covered with something.
When Venn arrived at home, he found his roommate, William Kuenzel, asleep, stating that “He [Kuenzel] was in bed. Far as I can remember he was.” Kuenzel’s stepfather had also observed Kuenzel asleep at home around 10:30 p.m. that same evening.
Contradicting Venn’s story, Kuenzel’s stepfather testified that he observed Kuenzel asleep at home around 10:30 p.m. that same evening.
Victim and evidence
Ms. Offord was found alive by the convenience store’s third-shift employee around 11:20 p.m., but she succumbed to her injuries on the way to the emergency room.
Ms. Offord was found alive by the convenience store’s third-shift employee around 11:20 p.m., but she succumbed to her injuries on the way to the emergency room.
The only physical evidence related to the crime implicates Venn as Ms. Offord’s killer. First, Ms. Offord’s blood was found on the “left thigh area of Venn’s blue jeans.” Since her blood was located on only one person, and in only one place – it was not found in or on Venn’s car, or on any other piece of evidence recovered by the State – the identity of Ms. Offord’s assailant was, and remains, unmistakable. Second, she physically resisted Venn’s robbery attempt, as evidenced by bruising observed two days later on Venn’s left eye and arm that is consistent with injuries on Ms. Offord’s right hand and arm.
The only physical evidence related to the crime implicates Venn as Ms. Offord’s killer. Specifically, Ms. Offord’s blood was found on the “left thigh area of Venn’s blue jeans.” Her blood was located on only one person, and in only one place – it was not found in or on Venn’s car, or on any other piece of evidence recovered by the State.
1 There is no evidence that these ten witnesses were shown a photograph of David Pope, or that the State of Alabama conducted any investigation whatsoever into Pope.
2 “I’m just sorry that it happened, you know. It won’t ever happen no more.” (Venn’s final statement to the police at 2:20 a.m. on November 15, 1987).