Texas man who spent 20 years on death row declared innocent of 1977 murder

A man who spent 20 years on death row for an East Texas murder has been fully exonerated.

Kerry Max Cook was convicted for sexually assaulting and killing Linda Jo Edwards, a 21-year-old secretary.

He spent 20 years on death row, until 1997 after his verdict was reversed, due to allegations of misconduct from police and prosecutors.

In a 1978 trial, the prosecution was found to withhold evidence and some of the evidence that did present was determined to be false.

One of the prosecution's witnesses met Cook at the Smith County jail and said Cook confessed to the murder.

The witness later went back on his testimony.

Prosecutors wanted to try him for the murder again, but allowed him to be released on a plea deal.

They set his conviction aside in 2016.

On Wednesday, the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals officially declared him innocent, formally exonerating him of the murder.

Smith was released from prison in 1997 and prosecutors set aside his conviction in 2016, but was still labeled a murderer in the Texas justice system until Wednesday.

Since Cook's release, he has become an advocate for ending the death penalty.