Carlyle Parish LLC

Strong defense. Effective advocacy. Sound counsel. Confidence and trust.

About the Firm

Elizabeth Unger Carlyle and Kay Parish established Carlyle Parish, LLC in June 2016 after working closely together as co-counsel in a number of capital cases. Through their early collaborative work, the pair recognized that they shared both a passion for the fierce and strategic defense of each individual client, and a vision for a more just and merciful judicial system. Joining forces, Ms. Carlyle and Ms. Parish apply over 50 years of combined legal experience to help those who are most in need of advocacy and representation. Together, they are dedicated to working personally with each and every client and fighting relentlessly on his or her behalf.

Ms. Carlyle and Ms. Parish collaborate extensively on every case they accept, so that each client benefits from their combined strengths and expertise. Their efforts in appeals, post-conviction, habeas corpus, and clemency cases have resulted in many clients being freed from prison or having their sentences reduced. [link to cases page]. Practicing law for almost 40 years, Ms. Carlyle is a well-respected veteran and expert in criminal law. She has twice been awarded the Atticus Finch Outstanding Criminal Defense Lawyer Award by the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for her efforts on behalf of incarcerated clients, and has won relief for numerous clients who did not receive effective assistance of counsel at trial. Among other successful cases, she recently won federal habeas corpus relief for a client denied effective assistance of counsel at trial; the state declined to re-prosecute. A focused and creative advocate, Ms. Parish practices exclusively in the area of criminal defense. She has been named one of Superlawyers’ “rising stars” in this area of the law and is a member of the Eastern District of Missouri’s Criminal Justice Act panel, an exclusive group of attorneys selected to receive appointments from district courts in federal cases.

While their primary practice is based in Missouri, both attorneys have been consistently involved in cases outside of Missouri due to their unique expertise and experience in capital and post-conviction matters. With office locations in both Kansas City and St. Louis, Missouri, Carlyle Parish, LLC is able to handle cases statewide with ease, reinforcing the partnership’s team approach to client representation.

Lawyer Bios

Elizabeth Unger Carlyle

Elizabeth Unger Carlyle practices criminal defense law in Missouri and Mississippi, with her main office in Kansas City, Missouri. She has a special interest in sentencing, appellate and post-conviction matters in state and federal court, and in working with incarcerated prisoners who are unjustly convicted or sentenced. In 2005 and 2012, she received the Atticus Finch Outstanding Criminal Defense Lawyer Award from the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. She is past president of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (MACDL) and a member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). She has lectured for the Missouri Bar, MACDL, the Mississippi Public Defender Association, Missouri Public Defender System, and Administrative Office of U.S. Courts on various criminal law topics, and has written articles for The Champion and the MACDL newsletter. She is the Supplement Author of Reversible Errors in Federal Criminal Cases and Erisman’s Reversible Errors in Texas Criminal Cases, published by Knowles Publishing, Inc. In 2005 and 2012, she received the Atticus Finch Outstanding Criminal Defense Lawyer Award from the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

J.D., Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, Massachusetts
B.A., St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland

Bar Admissions
Texas, 1977
Missouri, 1991
Mississippi, 2007

Court Admissions
United States Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth and Eighth Circuits
U.S. District Court, Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri, Northern and Southern Districts of Mississippi

Kathryn B. Parish

Kathryn B. Parish (Kay) maintains an office in St. Louis, Missouri. Her practice focuses on state and criminal appeals and post-conviction and habeas corpus cases both in Missouri and Illinois, as well as select capital cases in other states. She also maintains an extensive federal practice and is a member of a select list of attorneys in the Eastern District of Missouri approved to receive appointments from courts in federal criminal cases. Kay takes a personal approach to representation, working closely with her clients and their families to try to achieve the best outcome in any given case, and sometimes pursuing unusual remedies in order to achieve the best results for individual clients while considering all of the facts and circumstances of each client’s particular case and life. She co-chairs the Amicus committee for the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and was named a Superlawyer Rising Star in 2013. She has been featured on the television programs Stay Tuned and Missouri Viewpoints, speaking about the death penalty and criminal justice issues generally. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Ms. Parish worked briefly for the German Government as well as in the areas of political advocacy and nonprofit organizing.

J.D., Washington University, St Louis, Missouri
B.S., Georgetown University, Washington, DC

Bar Admissions
Missouri, 2009
Illinois, 2010

Court Admissions
United States Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth and Eight Circuits
U.S. District Court, Eastern and Western Districts of Missouri

Practice Areas

Elizabeth Carlyle and Kay Parish defend those accused and convicted of criminal wrongdoing, and are able to handle complex and difficult cases requiring specific knowledge of state and federal procedures. They provide passionate, focused and diligent representation in a range of state and federal criminal matters involving:

Criminal Appeals

All defendants, regardless of factual guilt or innocence, have constitutional rights and need effective counsel, even after conviction. Hiring a lawyer with specific experience in appellate work gives you the greatest opportunity for success in an appeal or post-conviction matter. Elizabeth Carlyle and Kay Parish focus their practice on post-conviction matters, and have extensive experience in direct appeals and post-conviction relief. They provide a unique understanding of the procedures and issues that arise during the appellate process, including matters involving:

  • Wrongful admission or exclusion of evidence
  • Errors in jury selection
  • Improper final arguments
  • Improper search, seizure and arrest

Other Post-Conviction Relief

After the direct appeal, federal and state procedures are available to raise constitutional issues that were not resolved at trial or on appeal. Elizabeth Carlyle and Kay Parish understand the full range of options, and can represent you in all forums on issues including:

  • Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
  • Wrongful Conviction
  • Prosecutorial Misconduct
  • New Evidence
  • Illegal Sentences

Habeas Corpus

Whether you are incarcerated in state or federal prison or otherwise being held in violation of your Constitutional rights, habeas corpus is likely the last available legal remedy to obtain release. Unfortunately, this Constitutional right has been mired by statutes aimed at restricting it, so that one must o jump through procedural hoops in order even to have claims heard. Most lawyers, even criminal defense lawyers, do not have extensive knowledge or experience in this very complex area of the law. Elizabeth Carlyle and Kay Parish do. Nearly every day, they are preparing pleadings, researching legal issues, investigating cases, appearing in court, or advising other lawyers on matters involving this incredibly complex area of the law. Carlyle Parish LLC are unique in their experience and expertise in the area of habeas corpus work.

Criminal Defense

Elizabeth Carlyle and Kay Parish have fifty years of combined experience in representing clients in criminal matters. They practice in both state and federal courts. They represent clients in legal matters involving:

  • Murder and Death Penalty
  • Violent Crimes
  • Drug and Substance-Related Charges
  • Sex Crimes
  • Theft and Property Offenses
  • Other Felony Offenses

Case Examples


Gabaree v. Steele, 792 F.3d 991 (8th Cir. 2015) (Habeas corpus)

State v. Thomas Ess, 453 S.W.3d 196 (Mo. 2015) (Direct Appeal)

State v. James Kuehnlein, 456 S.W.3d 510 (Mo. 2015) (Direct Appeal)

Streu v. Dormire, 557 F.3d 960 (8th Cir. 2009) (Habeas corpus statute of limitations)

Revels v. Sanders, 531 F.3d 724 (8th Cir. 2008) (Habeas corpus for not guilty by reason of insanity petitioner)

Dorsey v. State, 156 S.W.3d 825 (Mo. App. 2005) (Post-conviction hearing and appeal)

State v. Houston, 139 S.W.3d 223 (Mo. App. 2004) (Direct criminal appeal)

United States v. Dixon, 360 F.3d 845 (8th Cir. 2004) (Direct criminal appeal)

Barton v. State, 76 S.W.3d 280 (Mo. banc 2002) (Post-conviction proceeding), after retrial,

State v. Barton, 240 S.W.3d 693 (Mo. banc 2009) (Direct appeal)

State v. Derenzy, 89 S.W.3d 473 (Mo. banc 2002) (Direct criminal appeal)

Dixon v. Dormire, 263 F.3d 774 (8th Cir. 2001) (Habeas corpus)

United States v. Grimmett, 236 F.3d 452 (8th Cir. 2001) (Direct criminal appeal)

Beal v. State, 51 S.W.3d 109 (Mo. App. 2001) (Post-conviction hearing and appeal)

State v. Tinoco, 967 S.W.2d 87 (Mo. App. 1998) (Appeal by state)

Dean v. State, 901 S.W.2d 323 (Mo. App. 1995) (Post-conviction hearing and appeal)

State v. Tivis, 884 S.W.2d 28 (Mo. App. 1994) (Direct criminal appeal)


Jordan Nichols, 2017 (Sentence commuted by the Governor after advocacy by Carlyle Parish, LLC Lawyers)

Richard Clay, 2011 (Death sentence commuted by the Governor after advocacy by Carlyle Parish, LLC Lawyers)

Blog: Advocate for Mercy

Insights and responses by Elizabeth Unger Carlyle regarding issues of mercy and justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question to reveal the answer

What should I do when I’m stopped by the police?

For your own safety, you should move slowly and comply with directions given by the police. If you are in a car, keep your hands in sight and do not leave the car until asked to do so. Provide the police with your identification documents when asked to do so. However, the advice to comply with police directives DOES NOT INCLUDE A REQUIREMENT THAT YOU answer questions beyond those related to your identity, AND DOES NOT REQUIRE THAT YOU consent to a search of your person or vehicle. You should politely refuse to do that, and say that you want to consult a lawyer.

How do I exercise my right to remain silent when being questioned by the police?

If you are arrested, accused or questioned in connection with a crime, you always have the right to remain silent and consult with a lawyer (also known as your “Fifth Amendment” or “Miranda” rights). It is always wise to exercise these rights and not talk to anyone until you have a lawyer present. A lawyer can make sure your rights are protected and you don’t say anything that could be used against you or might be misinterpreted.

If you decide to remain silent until you have spoken with a lawyer, you must tell whomever is questioning you of your decision. (If you simply sit silently without telling them that you would like to remain silent and would like to speak to a lawyer, they can, and generally will, continue to question you and press you to talk.) All you have to say to invoke your right to remain silent is: “I choose to remain silent,” “I would like to talk to a lawyer,” “I do not want to talk without my lawyer present,” or even “I claim my Miranda rights.” Once you have told police of your desire to remain silent, they must stop questioning you or they risk violating your Fifth Amendment rights.

Do I need a lawyer?

If you are facing criminal charges, an investigation, or a disciplinary proceeding, your name, future opportunities, employment and freedom are at risk and you need a lawyer. Facing the criminal justice system can be frightening and stressful, not only because you may lose some of the most important things in your life, but also because the court system can be complex and overwhelming. With good legal advice, you will be better prepared to deal with the complex legal system. Even if you have been wrongly accused, a lawyer has more experience with court rules and legal strategies, can handle your issues with an objective perspective, and can give you the best chance of maintaining your personal liberties.

At times, the legal system can be akin to the medical field—just as a patient with appendicitis would elect for a doctor to remove his appendix rather than perform surgery on himself, a person accused of a crime should look to a legal professional for assistance to ensure his rights and liberties are preserved. Convictions for even minor offenses can have serious implications, such as more severe punishment for later convictions, loss or suspension from work, or deportation. So, while dealing with the legal system can sometimes seem unfair or overly burdensome, it is almost always in your best interest to be represented by a lawyer.

Should I hire a lawyer or obtain a public defender?

If you can afford representation, you should hire a private lawyer. With a more focused case load, a private lawyer can give you more frequent attention and will have greater resources to apply to your case. You will also be able to hand-pick your lawyer based on his or her experience, knowledge and personality. If you cannot afford a lawyer and qualify for public defender services, however, you should accept an appointed lawyer from the court to represent you in your case. Although you may have less choice in who is assigned to your case, a court-appointed lawyer will be able to explain the legal process, give you legal advice, and represent you in court.

How do I choose a lawyer?

Choosing a lawyer is an important decision. Before deciding to hire a lawyer, you should know have a good understanding of his or her reputation, experience, background and cost. It can be helpful to first find a few prospective lawyers through personal references from friends, family members, colleagues, and other lawyers who know someone they trust. The Internet can also be useful—many websites provide comprehensive databases of lawyers, referral services or people you can contact for suggestions (e.g., Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Missouri Bar Association ). Not all lawyers are experienced or effective in all types of law. The best lawyer for one type of case may not be the best lawyer for another type, and it is important that you choose a lawyer who can effectively handle the particular type of matter on which you need representation. When you call to speak with a prospective lawyer or set up a meeting, you should ask about his or her general experience as well as background in the specific field of law in which you need help. You should also get a sense of the lawyer’s personality. It is important that you feel able to communicate with your lawyer effectively and comfortable speaking with your lawyer openly and honestly and asking your lawyer questions. You should also feel confident that he or she will be able to deal with court officials, judges and others effectively. Do not hesitate to ask about a lawyer’s fees and compare them with others. Although the most expensive lawyer may not be the best lawyer for you, having a clear understanding attorney’s fees can help you hire the best attorney you can afford to handle your problem effectively and successfully.

Is what I say to a lawyer confidential?

Your private conversations with a lawyer concerning matters relating to your representation are confidential as long as you do not disclose them to a third party. This is true even if you have not yet hired the lawyer and are only speaking with him or her during an initial consultation. The lawyer may not disclose these communications without your permission. You may authorize your lawyer to share information with another person, such as a friend or relative, but once that happens, the communication is no longer confidential and the third person can be required to divulge them. For that reason, your lawyer should require written authorization before sharing information with anyone besides you.

After I hire a lawyer, what decisions will the lawyer and I make?

Your lawyer is responsible for making reasonable legal decisions about how to handle your case, such as what legal arguments to raise, and what witnesses to call at a trial or hearing. Your lawyer will consult with you about these decisions. You have the unqualified right to decide whether or not to plead guilty, whether or not to testify on your own behalf, and whether or not to appeal a judgment against you.

Should I accept a plea bargain?

The majority of criminal cases end in pleas of guilty. Often, if a fair disposition can be worked out, it is to the client’s advantage to accept a plea bargain and avoid the uncertainty and potential additional expense of a trial. But the important rights that are waived by accepting a plea bargain, such as the right to trial and the right against self-incrimination, should not be given up lightly. You should accept a plea bargain only if you completely understand the pros and cons, including but not limited to what punishment might be imposed if you decide to plead not guilty, and what the collateral consequences of a conviction will be.

Should I have the same lawyer who represented me at trial represent me on my appeal or in post-conviction?

The particular skillset necessary to effective appellate advocacy is a very different skillset than that required to be an effective trial lawyer. While some lawyers are proficient in both trial and appellate law, it is important that you consult with your lawyer to determine whether or not he or she practices in appellate courts and whether he or she has the time and skillset necessary to effective draft and argue an appellate petition. 

Because post-conviction petitions and habeas corpus petitions almost universally raise claims regarding the effectiveness of your trial counsel, you should almost never have your trial counsel represent you in post-conviction.

Why do I need a new lawyer in federal habeas corpus?

Federal Habeas corpus is often the last chance a person who was wrongly convicted has to attempt to secure his or her freedom or gain a lesser sentence through the court system. Due to legislative attempts to thwart the Constitutional right to habeas corpus over the years, this has become procedurally one of the most complex and confusing areas of the law. To be successful in habeas corpus, it is imperative that you have a lawyer who is intimately familiar with the myriad of procedural and substantive hurdles that must be overcome in order to even be granted a hearing on a habeas corpus petition. Most criminal lawyers are not.

Additionally, as you progress through the stages of a criminal case after you are convicted, the effectiveness of your counsel at every stage becomes a fundamental issue and can provide a basis for relief. For this reason, it is important that you hire someone for your federal habeas corpus proceedings that has not represented you in prior proceedings.

Do I need a lawyer to file a clemency petition?

An application for clemency by itself is a very short form that can be filed by any prisoner pro se. However, an effective clemency application requires a thorough investigation into the petitioner’s background and experience as well as a familiarity with the facts and particularities of the individual’s case as well as other factors that may influence a clemency decision. A thorough investigation generally requires collecting certain records, interviewing witnesses from throughout a person’s life, and doing other things that as a practical matter unfortunately cannot be done from inside prison. Compiling an effective application requires condensing the most important facts and presenting them to the decision-maker’s in office in a manner that is both compelling and efficient. Having a lawyer experienced in leading mitigation investigations and making clemency presentations is an important part of effective clemency advocacy.

I’ve been convicted of a crime, now what?

If you have been convicted of a crime after trial, you have a right to appeal. That right must be exercised within strict deadlines, so you should be sure you know those deadlines as soon as you are sentenced.

What is an appeal?

An appeal is a proceeding that attacks the validity of a conviction or civil judgment. The appeal will be in a higher court than the original proceeding, but exactly which court will depend on what state or federal court the original proceeding occurred in. The appellate court does not reconsider the case from scratch. Rather, it considers those errors in the original proceeding which the lawyer appealing the case brings to the court’s attention. Evidence that was not presented in the original case cannot be added on appeal. To place the appeal issues before the appellate court, the lawyer will file a written document called a “brief.” The lawyer from the other side will then file a responsive brief arguing that the original judgment was correct. A reply brief may then be filed by the appealing side. After all of the briefs are in, the court may grant the lawyers oral argument, which allows them to appear before the judges considering the case to answer questions and explain the issues. The appellate court then issues a written decision.

What is a post-conviction motion?

Most states have a procedure by which persons convicted of crimes may present evidence of constitutional violations that could not be considered on appeal because they require additional evidence beyond that which was offered at trial. Common issues include the denial of effective assistance of counsel or prosecutorial misconduct, including discovery violations. The states have differing procedures and deadlines for presenting post-conviction motions, and you should be sure you know the ones that apply to you. Depending on what state you are in, you may or may not have a right to appointed counsel for post-conviction matters.

What is habeas corpus?

Habeas corpus is a state or federal proceeding that allows a court to examine the confinement of a person in state or federal custody. It can be used to raise issues that were not available, or were not raised, in appeal or post-conviction proceedings. But there are very strict limitations on the availability of this relief and procedural and legal hurdles that must be overcome in order to be granted the opportunity for a hearing.