A man who was released from prison after the Missouri Supreme Court overturned his murder conviction will not stand trial again. The Dent County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office announced on Oct. 10 that a motion had been filed to drop the homicide charge against the man. According to media reports, the decision was made in light of new evidence that sheds new light on the case and creates reasonable doubt.
12 years a prisoner
The man spent 12 years behind bars after being convicted of killing his live-in girlfriend. The 21-year-old woman was strangled and shot in 1982, but police did not make an arrest until a cold case unit was handed the file in 2009. The man was convicted primarily on the basis of trace amounts of DNA evidence that was found beneath his fingernails. His attorneys argued unsuccessfully that this would not be unusual because the couple lived together.
The Missouri Supreme Court decided to vacate the murder conviction after learning that new evidence suggested the man may not have committed the crime. The most compelling evidence was DNA found on the shoelace that had been used to strangle the victim. Forensic scientists discovered the genetic profiles of two individuals who have yet to be identified. The prosecutor who dropped the murder charge said that he hopes the victim and her family will receive justice eventually.
What is known as the Brady rule requires prosecutors to turn over potentially exculpatory evidence to criminal defendants and their legal representatives. Experienced criminal defense attorney may study Brady materials with particular care when their clients have been accused of committing violent crimes like murder, and they may also look for signs of law enforcement missteps such as failing to run DNA tests on crucial pieces of evidence.