Lawyer of Missouri prisoner asks U.S. Supreme Court to step in

Chris Dunn has served more than 30 years in prison
Published: Dec. 23, 2022 at 10:18 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) - The lawyer of a St. Louis man and convicted felon has filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme to review his client’s case.

Chris Dunn’s lawyer recently filed the petition to ask the court to decide if Dunn’s incarceration is unconstitutional after a judge acknowledged Dunn meets the criteria to be innocent.

Dunn was convicted for a 1990 deadly shooting of a teen in St. Louis. Others involved in the case later admitted they lied about Dunn’s involvement. No DNA ever tied Dunn to the murder. A judge also admitted that the lack of evidence is enough to prove Dunn is innocent.

The State of Missouri recently enacted a law giving prosecutors an avenue to file a petition to free innocent prisoners who exhaust their appeals. The law allows a prosecutor to file a motion to vacate or set aside a judgment at any time if they have information that the convicted person may be innocent or may have been erroneously convicted.

A Missouri Supreme Court case in 2016 (Lincoln v. Cassady) ruled claims of freestanding innocence are relegated to death row inmates. That ruling set the precedent of only allowing prosecutors to file a motion to vacate or set aside a judgment at any time if they have information that the death row inmate may be innocent or may have been erroneously convicted, excluding all other convicted felons.

Read the petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on behalf of Christopher Dunn:

Death row inmate Kevin Strickland was freed last year due to the new law, but the precedent set in the 2016 Missouri Supreme Court ruling of Lincoln v. Cassady is why the Missouri Supreme Court refuses to take on Dunn’s case.

“The [U.S.] Supreme Court is potentially the last chance,” Kira Dunn, wife of Chris Dunn, told News 4. “Any system in the world-any industry, any organization-when they realize there’s a flaw, they fix it.”

“The filing into the [U.S.] Supreme Court asks the right question. It asks about the constitutionality of keeping people who have evidence that exonerates them, whether or not it’s a violation of the 8th Amendment or cruel or unusual punishment to keep them incarcerated,” said Kenya Brumfield-Young, a Saint Louis University criminology professor.

Pre-filed Missouri legislation called the Freestanding Bill allows a person in the custody of the Department of Corrections to raise a freestanding claim of actual innocence in any post-conviction proceeding if the person questions the court’s findings in the original criminal case. The court has the authority to review, decide, and issue an order on the claim if there is clear and convincing evidence supporting the claim. The court must consider evidence not presented at the original trial or during a plea, postconviction hearing, or direct appeal. If the court determines the burden of proof has been met, the court must vacate or set aside the judgment.

“That is the intent of the legislation, is to be able to apply to all--everyone who is under the Department of Corrections,” Brumfield-Young said.

The City of St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office sent News 4 the following statement:

“The Circuit Attorney’s Office takes claims of manifest injustice seriously. It is in the best interest of our City and State to ensure that convictions levied on individuals are correct according to the available evidence and constitutional law. To that end, we will continue to seek justice in cases where we determine action is required to address a wrongful conviction.”