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St. Louis prosecutor files motion asking court to set aside the conviction of a man serving a life sentence for murder

<i>Kira Dunn via AP</i><br/>There is
Kira Dunn via AP
There is "clear and convincing evidence" that Christopher Dunn wasn't involved in the 1990 shooting death of Ricco Rogers

By Chris Boyette, CNN

(CNN) — The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office has filed a motion asking a Missouri court to set aside the conviction of a man who prosecutors say has served more than 30 years of a life sentence for a murder he didn’t commit.

Christopher Dunn, now 52, was convicted in 1991 and sentenced to life in prison without parole for the murder of Ricco Rogers, 15, who was shot and killed on May 18, 1990, according to the motion.

“For the last 33 years, Mr. Dunn has been incarcerated for a crime in which there is clear and convincing evidence he did not commit,” a statement from the circuit attorney’s office Monday reads. “We have an ethical duty to work to correct this injustice.”

The motion says Dunn – who was 19 at the time of the shooting, according to his attorneys – was convicted on the eyewitness testimony of a 15-year-old and a 12-year-old who have since recanted their testimony under oath and admitted that they lied. No physical evidence tied Dunn to the crime, the court document, filed Friday in the 22nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri, says.

During the appeals process, Dunn’s mother and sister testified he was home on the night of the killing, watching television, and had talked to a friend on the phone, according to the motion.

“We are hopeful his wrongful conviction is set aside for the sake of Mr. Dunn, his family, and the people of the city of St. Louis,” the prosecutors’ statement reads.

According to the motion, Dunn’s case was reviewed by Texas County Circuit Court Judge William Hickle in 2020, who upon reviewing the evidence said, “This court does not believe that any jury would now convict Christopher Dunn under these facts,” but under Missouri law, the judge can’t overturn a conviction just because a person isn’t actually guilty unless the death penalty is involved.

Dunn’s attorneys with the Midwest Innocence Project said Missouri is the only state in the nation with such limitations on innocence claims.

“Until the legislature changes the law, only a prosecutor can petition a court to free an innocent defendant sentenced to anything less than death,” the lawyers said in a news release.

The next steps are for the circuit court to hold a hearing on the prosecutor’s motion, according to Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director of the Midwest Innocence Project.

Bushnell said the process where a prosecutor files the motion, followed by a hearing, has been used to exonerate other wrongfully convicted inmates.

According to Bushnell, the Missouri attorney general has a right to participate in that hearing, but it is the judge that decides the motion.

CNN has sought comment from Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey.

It is unclear whether a hearing has been scheduled in Dunn’s case.

“We thank the circuit attorney’s office for her efforts to pursue justice in Chris’ case, and we look forward to presenting the evidence of his innocence to the court,” Dunn’s attorneys said.

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner announced her resignation earlier this month after mounting pressure and criticism regarding her performance in office, but the circuit attorney’s office has said she is working during the transition.

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