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Appellate Practice

Court worker is fired after providing sample motion, which inmate uses to win DNA test and release

Posted Jul 29, 2013 1:15 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A court worker who provided a copy of a winning motion for seeking post-conviction DNA testing helped Robert Nelson win the reversal of a 1984 rape conviction for which he had been sentenced to more than 50 years in prison.

But doing so also cost Sharon Snyder her job after court officials in Jackson County, Mo., determined that she had crossed a line by providing advice about a case, among other claimed violations of court rules, the Associated Press reports.

She admittedly gave a copy of a winning motion for DNA testing to Nelson's sister, who gave it to him to use as a sample in drafting his own winning motion. When the test was performed, it showed that he was not a match. Nelson had previously filed two other motions seeking DNA testing, but they were denied.

Snyder, 70, was fired less than a year before she was scheduled to retire. Initially distraught about the possibility of losing her pension, she later learned that her retirement benefits would remain in place, which apparently helped her take a more philosophical attitude over the loss of her job.

“I lent an ear to his sister, and maybe I did wrong,” Snyder said. “But if it was my brother, I would go to every resource I could possibly find.

“I think I might have been the answer to his prayers.”

See also:

Kansas City Star: "DNA test frees man from a long prison sentence"

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