Dale Helmig, who served 14 years in a Missouri prison for his mother’s slaying, learned during a Sunday morning trip to a convenience store that he wouldn’t be retried, reports the Associated Press. Helmig, 55, has been in limbo for the past nine months. He was freed from prison after a judge ruled he was a “victim of manifest injustice” and two state appeals courts upheld that decision. It wasn’t until Helmig found out that Osage County prosecutor Amanda Grellner — who didn’t handle his original case — had decided to dismiss charges that he could breathe easy for the first time in nearly two decades.
Helmig had been sentenced to life in prison without parole for his mother’s death in 1993. His attorney said Helmig was the 20th inmate to be released from a Missouri prison over the past three decades on an overturned conviction. Nine had been convicted of murder, and four of those had been sentenced to death. Seven men were freed based on DNA evidence. “There is something wrong with the criminal justice system,” said Sean O’Brien, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor associated with the Midwestern Innocence Project. “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,” he said. “There’s nothing like that in the criminal justice system.”
The role of the news media in freeing Helmig was discussed in this story in the Crime Report.