Kerry Max Cook in the news, in different ways

Theatre 3, which planned a full run of the play The Exonerated in its Theatre Too space downstairs, has been forced to cut back due to construction issues. Now, it will run for only three staged readings on May 18 and 19 at 8 p.m. and a May 20 matinee at 2:30 p.m.

One of the persons profiled in this show — which chronicles the experiences of six death row inmates later exonerated — is Kerry Max Cook, pictured.

I have an odd relationship with Kerry. I knew nothing about his alleged crime — supposedly murdering a woman in Tyler in 1977 — until I moved to Dallas in 1990. At that time, he was undergoing a retrial in Dallas, and the story was covered almost daily on the front page of the Dallas Morning News. His image — the shock-white brush-cut and stony look — was memorable, and when he was re-convicted, I thought, “Just as well. He probably did it.” Then in 1997, he entered a plea deal, pleading “no contest” in exchange for a sentence of time-served. (The Exonerated followed a decade later.)

Everyone seems to be in agreement that Kerry didn’t do it. Certainly, that was my conclusion, after I met and interviewed him. Kerry came by my office in 2005 or 2006, and I wrote a cover story for the Voice about his ordeal. (His hair was darker by then, but the face was unmistakeable.) Kerry was a friendly fellow, who spoke convincingly about his innocence.

One thing he said to me was that he always assumed he was targeted in part because he frequented gay bars in Dallas in the 1970s, and was therefore labeled an “undesirable” by the cops in Tyler. (Tyler has a pretty crappy history when it comes to gay stuff.) Kerry has since married a woman.

I really liked Kerry, but truth is, “exonerated” has always been a slight overstatement. Kerry wasn’t deemed “innocent,” just freed and the death penalty against him abandoned.

But Kerry doesn’t wanna let it go. He’s back in court in Smith County, asking to conduct more DNA evidence to conclusively establish his innocence, as reported in the Texas Tribune. Personally, I hope he wins. And I hope it makes people reconsider the death penalty.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones