ST. LOUIS — St. Louis' new circuit attorney wants more time to look over a murder conviction that the previous officeholder wanted to see overturned.
Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore on Thursday filed a motion to withdraw a request to vacate the conviction of Christopher Dunn, who has spent 33 years in prison for a killing he says he didn't commit.
Gore's predecessor, Kim Gardner, filed the request to vacate Dunn's first-degree murder conviction days before she stepped down from office in May, after witnesses who testified against Dunn later said authorities had pressured them to lie. In her request, Gardner cited “clear and convincing evidence” that he had not been involved in the 1990 shooting death of Ricco Rogers.
The above video was published on May 15.
Gore's office said withdrawing the request gives him time to look over the case.
“We will conduct a full review of Mr. Dunn’s case and proceed as the law and facts dictate. As Circuit Attorney that is my responsibility,” Gore said in a Thursday statement.
Gardner, a Democrat, succeeded in February in getting a court to set aside the conviction of another man, Lamar Johnson, who had spent nearly three decades in prison. Gardner took up his cause after an investigation her office conducted with help from the Innocence Project convinced her he was innocent in a 1994 killing. Johnson was convicted largely on the testimony of an eyewitness who later alleged that he had been coerced into his statements.
Dunn, 51, who is Black, was 18 when Rogers was killed. Among the key evidence used to convict him was testimony from two boys who were at the scene of the shooting. Both later recanted their testimony, saying they had been coerced by police and prosecutors.
A judge has heard Dunn's innocence case before. At an evidentiary hearing in 2020, Judge William Hickle agreed that a jury would likely find Dunn not guilty based on new evidence. But Hickle declined to exonerate Dunn, citing a 2016 Missouri Supreme Court ruling that only death row inmates—not those like Dunn sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole—could make a “freestanding” claim of actual innocence.
A 2021 law now allows prosecutors to seek court hearings in cases with new evidence of a wrongful conviction. It has led to the freeing of another longtime inmate, Kevin Strickland, who served more than 40 years for a Kansas City triple killing. Johnson was the second inmate freed as a result of the new law.
Dunn's attorneys at the Midwest Innocence Project have said he should be the third.
“We are confident that when faced with such evidence, any Court will find, as Judge Hickle did nearly three years ago, that Christopher Dunn is innocent,” the group said in a May news release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.