“It is difficult to imagine a free society where it is not a manifest injustice to imprison an innocent person.”
Sean D. O’Brien
There’s lots of talk about the Lincoln v. Cassady ruling, but the legal incarceration of innocent Missouri citizens didn’t start there. The appeals court in that ruling drew heavily on the case of Joseph Amrine.
In Amrine v. Roper, the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that a “freestanding claim” of actual innocence – in other words, a prisoner proving their innocence with clear and convincing evidence – was enough to release a person from prison ONLY IF that person was sentenced to death.
Let’s try to wrap our heads around that. The Missouri Supreme Court concluded that executing an proven innocent person was a manifest injustice. The honorable late Judge Teitelman authored that opinion, with which the honorable Judge Wolff concurred. Both men showed a compassion that was not forthcoming from the other justices.
Killing an innocent person is wrong – good start! But the Court stopped there. So, keeping an innocent person in prison until they die of violence, disease, lack of medical care, or just old age – is okay? That’s not a manifest injustice?
Once it becomes clear to any court that a person is innocent, is it okay to take even another day from that person’s life? How about weeks, months, years, or even decades? Is it acceptable to continue taking that person’s freedom, continuing to siphon time from their life, depriving their family of a parent, a child, a loved one? Wouldn’t that be unfair and unjust? According to the Missouri Supreme Court’s reasoning, it’s not!
So keeping an innocent person in prison remains perfectly legal in Missouri.
It’s worth noting that just because a trial was fair, does not mean that its outcome is correct. Juries, judges, and lawyers make mistakes. When it becomes clear that a mistake was made, the outcome should be corrected. This common-sense, basic concept does not hold true in Missouri.
So, here we are. When innocence doesn’t matter, then guilt doesn’t matter, and what’s the point of having laws at all?
Just about the only way this insanity can be fixed is through legislation. We need Missouri senators and representatives with compassion and common sense to introduce legislation – amending the Amrine decision would be an excellent start – so that freestanding innocence is recognized and actionable.
Missouri legislators – innocent people and their families need your help!