Kansas City Star Update:  Joseph Amrine Released from Prison


Supreme Court overturns Kansas City man's conviction

April 29, 2003

From Staff and Wire Reports

The Missouri Supreme Court today overturned the conviction of death row inmate Joseph Amrine, who had claimed he was innocent of killing another prisoner 17 years ago.

The Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision, said Amrine had shown "clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence that undermines confidence" in his conviction.

It would be at least 30 days before Amrine, of Kansas City, could be freed.

The court ordered Amrine to be freed from prison within 30 days of its issuing a mandate demanding his release, unless the state files new murder charges against him.

The mandate will not be issued until it is determined whether the Supreme Court will rehear the case.

The attorney general's office has 15 days to decide whether it will ask for a rehearing, according to Sean O'Brien, Amrine's Kansas City attorney.

O'Brien called the court's decision "a huge step in the right direction because it puts Joe back at square one. Hopefully, saner minds will prevail here" and the charges will not be refiled.

"I'm thrilled and Joe was thrilled," O'Brien said. "He alternatively laughed and cried," when O'Brien told him of the decision.

Amrine was sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing of fellow prisoner Gary Barber on Oct. 18, 1985, in a recreation room at the state prison in Jefferson City.

But three inmates who testified against Amrine later said they lied to win special protection for themselves, Amrine's lawyer said when arguing the case before the state Supreme Court in February. The lawyer said there also were inconsistent descriptions of the killing.

Writing for the majority, Judge Richard Teitelman said Amrine's case "presents the rare circumstance in which no credible evidence remains from the first trial to support the conviction."

Teitelman was joined by Judges Ronnie White, Laura Denvir Stith and Michael Wolff -- all four of whom where appointed to the court by Democratic governors.

The court's three Republican-appointed judges dissented.

The Star's Lynn Franey and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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