Overstreet Found Innocent in Shooting

Published: 23 March 2007

Mother, Girlfriend of Slain Man Say They Don’t Blame Jury for Verdict

Cortez Overstreet was found innocent Thursday in the shooting death of Michael Ridley.

The jury of seven women and five men needed only 90 minutes of deliberation to determine which of two conflicting accounts of the incident was more credible.

On Tuesday, Overstreet’s former friend Martise Harrison told the jury he was driving his car back to

Overstreet’s apartment the night of Oct. 15, 2005, with Overstreet in the passenger seat when the car pulled alongside Ridley’s van. He said Overstreet leaned out the window and shot Ridley. Overstreet, though, testified the two men drove back to his apartment at 1301 S.W. Harrison without incident. He neither participated in nor witnessed any shooting or any kind of altercation, he said.

When the verdict was read at 5 p.m. Thursday, Cortez Overstreet’s mother, Glenda Overstreet, at first looked stunned, then hugged her son tearfully.

When asked for her thoughts, Glenda Overstreet said, “Prayer works.”

Then she added, “I’m so sorry for the young man’s family. I pray for them.”

Ridley’s mother, Virginia, and his girlfriend, Kimberly Beard, were beside themselves with frustration. They said they didn’t blame the jury for reaching the conclusion it did.

But the trial left them without closure. They don’t know who killed Michael Ridley, and they blame the Topeka Police Department for what they believed was a flawed investigation.

“I got a kid that’s dead,” Virginia Ridley said. “The police department messed up.”

“What am I going to tell my kids?” Beard said.

During the four-day trial, Overstreet’s attorneys, Christopher Joseph and Kristine Lawless, presented many instances they said showed police investigators failed to solve the case.

For example, an expert witness who testified for the defense Thursday said it would have been possible for police to determine Overstreet’s and Harrison’s whereabouts by tracking their cell phone calls on the night of the shooting.

But Sprint, the provider that would have had the information, keeps such records only 45 days. By the time Overstreet was charged with the crime, it was too late to get them.

Police never found the murder weapon. So the jury was left to decide whether to believe Harrison’s story or Overstreet’s.

Harrison testified he rarely carried the 380-caliber automatic weapon that he owned but claimed Overstreet used it in the shooting.

An important detail of Overstreet’s story was corroborated by Jayme Douglas, a friend who visited Overstreet’s apartment that night and said Harrison wasn’t there — contrary to Harrison’s story.

Mike Hall can be reached at (785) 295-1209 or [email protected].

By Mike Hall
The Capital-Journal

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