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Criminal appeals: process is important, as Missouri case reminds

One of the threads in this blog is criminal appeals. We have looked, for example, at issues such as appeals of search and seizure rulings, as we did in our May 22 post.

That post concerned a Missouri child pornography case. A wife had consented to the search of a shared dwelling, but the husband had not.

In this post, let's look at a current case in which the Missouri Court of Appeals reversed a man's murder conviction. 

The man had been convicted in 2005 of robbing and killing a journalist in a newspaper parking lot. He had always insisted he was innocent, however, even after serving many years in prison. 

Earlier this month, the Missouri Court of Appeals held that the man's trial was tainted by the withholding of evidence by prosecutors. And the Missouri Attorney General's Office announced that it would not seek a retrial.

And so the man, now 29, was released from the Boone County Jail. Not long after having the shackles removed, he found himself giving interviews to media outlets. Free after so long, and out from under a 40-year sentence, he declared himself "ready for anything."

The man was only a junior in high school when he and another student were drinking heavily at a location near where the journalist was killed. 

Prosecutors contended that the two students robbed the journalist in order to obtain money for alcohol. But there was never any physical evidence linking them to the murder scene.

A case like this is a reminder of how important criminal appeals are. To be sure, it can seem like the process takes a long time. But the process also plays a crucial role in making sure justice is served.

Source: Reuters, "Missouri man freed after murder conviction overturned," Eric M. Johnson, Nov. 13, 2013

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