A trial error that freed a man from a 1985 murder conviction in St. Louis would never happen in the computer age, a prosecutor told the St. Louis Post-Dipatch. A key prosecution witness, in prison for an unrelated murder, lied in a way that minimized his own criminal record at Darryl Burton’s trial, and neither the prosecution nor the defense challenged it, officials said. The only evidence linking Burton to the crime was testimony of two men who claimed they saw him do it. With one discredited, a judge overturned Burton’s first-degree murder conviction, saying he did not get a fair trial.
Prosecutor Jennifer Joyce said neither side realized at the time that a witness lied, because his record was on scattered slips of paper. “They would have had to search through a cumbersome filing system of index cards” she said. “Nowadays, something like this would not happen.” Burton was serving a sentence of life in prison without a chance of parole for 50 years, so the ruling spared him 26 years more in prison.