Little more than a week after Kansas denied parole to Ronnie Rhodes, a prosecutor in Missouri dismissed murder charges against a man who has maintained his innocence for 18 years.
Dale Helmig, 55, learned Sunday morning he would not be retried for the 1993 murder of his mother, when a prosecutor dismissed the charges against him.
The house painter had served 14 years for a crime he said he didn’t commit. Then, based on evidence gathered by law students and the Midwest Innocence Project, a judge last November overturned the conviction. DeKalb County Senior Judge Warren McElwain ruled Helmig was “actually innocent of the crime.”
Late last week, Osage County prosecutor Amanda Grellner — who didn’t handle his original case — decided to dismiss charges. Evidence showed the original prosecutor and a sheriff had misled the jury.
Helmig, sentenced to serve life in prison without parole, is the 20th inmate to be released from a Missouri prison over the past three decades on an overturned conviction. Only seven were freed based on DNA evidence. Nine were convicted of murder, and four of those were sentenced to death, Helmig’s lawyer said.
Sean O’Brien, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor who led the investigation of Helmig’s case, told the Associated Press:
“There is something wrong with the criminal justice system. When an airplane crashes, we have the National Transportation Safety Board collect every nut and bolt and piece of the airplane to see what’s wrong. There’s nothing like that in the criminal justice system.”
Kansas has no innocence project to investigate cases, nor does it have an innocence commission empowered by the courts to look into claims of wrongful convictions.
The Eagle began covering Rhodes’ case, after students from the Washburn Law School said they found multiple problems with his 1981 conviction for murder in Wichita.
Rhodes has maintained his innocence for the past three decades.