Mo. Judge Rules Dale Helmig Innocent After 17 Years in Prison

A Missouri judge today found Dale Helmig innocent of killing his mother in 1993, a crime for which he has served 17 years in prison. The ruling follows a week-long hearing in July on whether Dale should receive a new trial.

DeKalb County Senior Judge Warren McElwain ruled that Helmig "established his innocence by clear and convincing evidence." He called Helmig, who was convicted in 1996 of killing his mother three years earlier in central Missouri's Osage County, a "victim of manifest injustice."

This one is personal for me, since I spent more than a week in Missouri interviewing Dale Helmig, his family, witnesses, the judge, prosecutors and Dale's trial and appellate defense counsel, for a 2000 TNT movie about his case, Was Justice Denied?. We also conducted our own investigation of the facts and reviewed all of the trial transcripts. I've continued to follow the case through its ups and downs here on TalkLeft. [More...]

The Illinois State University Innocence Project also re-investigated the case and made a movie about it. And students there found evidence that led to Dale's habeas petition being granted. (A ruling later reversed.)John Walsh, of America's Most Wanted, devoted an episode to Dale and his innocence. A factual overview is here.

Today's ruling also criticized the former lead prosecutor, Kenny Hulshof, who went on to serve six terms in Congress. The judge found he misrepresented evidence to the jury. And Dale's wasn't his only wrongful conviction )(details of the cases here:)

A 2008 investigation by AP found that prosecutorial errors by Hulshof led to four death sentence reversals, though those defendants were later convicted in subsequent trials.

Next up for Dale: A hearing on November 10th for bond pending a decision by the state whether to retry Dale.

Retry him? Enough, already. Let Dale go home.

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  • Display: Sort:
    legal malpractice (2.00 / 1) (#3)
    by diogenes on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 11:23:27 PM EST
    "A recent petition to the court best summarizes the trial: "Dale Helmig was convicted of murdering his mother only because the weakness of the state's case was exceeded by the lawyer's inept defense."

    Maybe if lawyers allowed themselves to be sued for malpractice as often as doctors are they would be less likely to be so inept.  And how often do lawyers get put on probation or disbarred for gross incompetence?

    Re: Malpractice (none / 0) (#4)
    by Harry Saxon on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 02:12:34 AM EST
    Um, lawyers have no special protection against malpractice suits, so I don't know what you're trying to say here.

    I Am So Sick of This Non-Sense (none / 0) (#1)
    by ScottW714 on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 09:10:16 AM EST
    Here in Houston, or rather Texas, once every couple of months someone is freed after years, usually decades, of incarceration for crimes they didn't commit.  Generally there is some overt act(s) by the police, prosecutor, or judge that was behind the wrongful conviction.

    Until they are made to answer, this will never stop and we are the ones who pay the ultimate price.  Not just the 10's of millions generally awarded, but we pay by having the real culprits free to commit more violent crimes.

    Yet, nothing, maybe they get a verbal reprimand like this case, but after years no one seems to care that the real culprits are still out there.  That stinks, maybe if we started holding these guys accountable, even if just some minor jail time, or loss of their job/license they might think twice about holding back key evidence or witness coaching.

    Not sure what we do able eye witnesses.  Hard to imagine locking up the victim of a violent crime because they picked the wrong person, but damn, something needs to be done.

    Espically when (none / 0) (#2)
    by nyjets on Thu Nov 04, 2010 at 10:47:05 AM EST
    '....Hard to imagine locking up the victim of a violent crime because they picked the wrong person....'
    Espically when 9 times out of 10 the person made an honest mistake. There was no intent to lie in making an incorrect identification.

    a legal system that truly placed (none / 0) (#5)
    by jondee on Fri Nov 05, 2010 at 02:37:02 AM EST
    as much of a premium on justice as it does on tidily expediting cases in order to provide 'closure' to society and to help along the careers of judges and prosecutors, would be doing everything in it's power to insure that the outcome of a case like this could never possibly hinge on that kind of "honest mistake".