For two decades, a man in Missouri was jailed for a crime he says he didn’t commit. After a number of failed appeals, a judge has ruled that the conviction should be overturned because of issues with the fairness of the original trial. The judge has left the case open for another trial should the prosecuting attorney refile charges. The man’s attorney says they are hopeful that won’t happen.

The man was tried as an adult when he was 14 years old. He was convicted of shooting another 14-year-old outside of a local teen club. The incident in question occurred on Dec. 31, 1993. The then-14-year-old boy was found guilty by the jury of first-degree murder.

According to reports, a number of witnesses have come forward to say that the man was not the shooter. Three witnesses allegedly said that the teen was in front of the club and that shots came from a vacant lot that was located on the east of the club. Three witnesses who would allegedly make these statements were not called to testify at the original trial.

The judge said that evidence in the case was suppressed. He said whether the evidence was suppressed inadvertently or intentionally, the defense was not fully informed about it, which hindered its case. That resulted in an unfair trial.

In addition to the three witnesses, other evidence that was possibly suppressed included recordings of 911 calls, police dispatches and a statement from the twin of the boy who was shot that identified another person as the shooter. Although this man has lost 20 years to the original conviction, his case is an illustration of the fact that criminal defense doesn’t rest after a trial is over and criminal appeals can be a valuable asset for any accused.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune, “Conviction tossed in St. Louis dance hall death” No author given, Jun. 19, 2014