Criminal Justice

Did Missouri Execute an Innocent Man?

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A dozen years after Larry Griffin was executed, despite his continuing proclaimations of innocence, by the state of Missouri, there are major unanswered questions about whether he was actually guilty of the 1980 drive-by shooting he was convicted of committing.

After a University of Michigan law professor brought to light concerns about recanted testimony by prosecution witnesses and a potential defense witness wounded in the shooting who was never called and says Griffin was innocent, the chief St. Louis prosecutor is reinvestigating the case. Advocates against the death penalty are eagerly awaiting his report, which is expected to be publicly released soon, writes AP.

“We’re watching this very closely,” says David Elliot of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty in Washington. “We really feel it is incumbent for the government to prove that Larry Griffin was guilty. If they can’t do that, maybe it’s time for Missouri to step back, have a moratorium, study the death penalty system, and see what can be done to prevent this tragedy from happening again.”

But the prosecutor whose work put Griffin in the chair says he doesn’t doubt his guilt. “I tried probably 60 homicide cases and a number of those were capital murder cases,” said Gordon Ankney, now a private practitioner. “I’d have to say this case was as strong as any of them. There’s nothing wrong with the evidence or the witnesses in this case.”

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