Missouri did not execute an innocent man in June 1995, says St. Louis’s chief prosecutor, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For many years, death penalty opponents nationwide have cited Larry Griffin as a leading example of an innocent man wrongfully put to death, and a compelling reason to abolish capital punishment. After a two-year investigation by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office, prosecutors are convinced the right man was convicted for killing 19-year-old Quintin Moss in 1980 and that the case has grown even stronger with information from a witness who disappeared after the shooting.
Joyce launched a new investigation in June 2005 after the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said Gffin was innocent of the killing. The report said the state’s star witness lied and that prosecution and defense lawyers never contacted a second victim who would have testified that Griffin was not one of the shooters. Joyce, two other prosecutorsm, and two police detectives reviewed court documents, transcripts of trials, appellate court hearings and interviews, and conducted or attempted more than 80 interviews of their own. University of Michigan law Prof. Samuel Gross, who led the Legal Defense Fund investigation, said the report does not put the issue to rest but calls into question testimony of the state’s star witness, Robert Fitzgerald, with “direct, unmistakable” evidence that he perjured himself. “With the evidence that we see now, there’s no way that he could get convicted at a new trial,” Gross said. “Of course, we can’t go back and do it over again.”