I am elated to share what hopefully is the last chapter in Reginald Griffin saga.
You may recall the last article I did on Reggie was “How many injustices can one man take?” published on December 22, 2011. In spite of the Missouri Supreme Court’s ruling to discharge Griffin or to retry the case in 60 days, justice was blocked again and again by the State of Missouri.
Now Griffin is finally free.
Griffin was accused, convicted and sentenced for the murder of an inmate at Moberly prison. Big problem: Griffin not even in the area where the crime occurred.
Raymond Newberry, the prison investigator, was told who the real perpetrator was but seemed to be hell-bent on making Griffin pay. Snitches were rounded up and evidence withheld from Reggie’s attorney – the usual factors in wrongful convictions.
The personal vendetta should have and could have been stopped here by local prosecutors, but sadly it did not.
The prosecutorial misconduct went all the way to the state Attorney General’s Office, which also withheld evidence. When the AG’s office was told by the snitch that he was coached by the prison investigator, neither the recorded interview nor the memorandum was turned over to Reggie’s attorneys.
For nearly two years since the Missouri Supreme Court said, “Give us your best shot or let the man go,” the state could not come up with one shred of evidence linking Griffin to the murder.
In a 2012 hearing, Judge Russell Steele tried his best to get an answer from Assistant Prosecutor Stephen Hawke as to why he would intentionally withhold evidence that he is required by law to turn over to defense attorneys. Here is a fragment of the exchange:
The Court: “I think I’m hearing you say that if you have something that would have helped the defendant you weren’t obligated to disclose that to him in a habeas proceeding. Is that what you are telling me?”
Mr. Hawke: “There was no rule that required the disclosure of that content. Yes.”
The Court: “I understand that, but the state is someone who wants to be the purveyor of truth. Isn’t it the proper thing for the state to do to disclose that, even if they are under no civil procedural obligation to do so?… Are you not going to answer? I would like to hear an answer to that question.”
Mr. Hawke: “The state is under no obligation to disclose.”
Hawke admitted that the state has no obligation to seek truth or to disclose evidence that could possible lead to a defendant’s proof of innocence.
Griffin’s 30-year beat-down was brightened by a joyous reunification with his family, and now he is planning the rest of his life. His mom, Jonnie Warner, is at peace. Ms. Mae Etta, Griffin’s 96-year-old grandma got a chance to hold him close one more time. His wife is ready to help with navigating through this new and different world.
No more injustices for the Griffin family. But the system remains broken and corrupt. It’s our tax dollars that keep this unworkable and unjust system afloat, and we must be the ones to change it.