A Kansas City man considers Sharon Snyder (left) his “angel”.  The Jackson County Circuit Judge considers Snyder an insubordinate that shouldn’t have given advice and was too chatty about courthouse matters.  Sharon Snyder, a veteran court staffer and 70-year-old great-grandmother, was fired for giving Robert Nelson a public document that would help him seek DNA testing.  The document, which helped him file a successful motion, also won him release from prison based upon DNA testing that proved his innocence and identified the two real perpetrators, who have now been arrested.  What does the woman who helped discover the judicial atrocity, return freedom to an innocent man, and help justice be served for all say about her termination?

“I don’t regret what I did,” she told AOL Jobs in an interview. “I am glad because it was doing right by a person.”  She insists that she would do it again.

Snyder worked for the court in Missouri for 34 years before being fired for disobedience nine months before retirement because she gave a man’s sister a copy of a public document (a motion filed by another inmate during their appeal).  Nelson, 49, was falsely convicted of a 1983 home invasion and rape and sentenced to 70 years.  He insisted for decades that he was innocent, but no one would listen.  After two unsuccessful attempts to file for DNA testing, denied by Jackson County Circuit Judge David Byrn, it was Snyder who gave his sister the document that revealed his innocence and the identities of the real offenders.  Byrn stated that he denied the motion because it fell short of what the law required.

Sea Dunnell, Nelson’s sister, could have gotten the document if she knew what it was and where to find it and then used it as a guide to file the DNA testing motion, but like most laymen she isn’t fully versed in the ins and outs of appellate law.  A few months after filing the motion, the same judge, Byrn, sustained the motion, granting Nelson the testing.  He also appointed Laura O’Sullivan, the legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project to represent him because he was indigent.  The Kansas City PD’s crime lab concluded that Nelson was excluded from the sample.

“She gave me a lot of hope,” Nelson said of Snyder. “She and my sister gave me strength to go on and keep trying….”

Five days after Nelson was released, Court Administrator Jeffrey Eisenbeis took Snyder into Byrn’s office near closing time and told her there were concerns about her involvement in the case.  She was ordered not to be near the courthouse unless she had permission.  “At first I didn’t know if my pension was going to be intact, and all I could do was curl up in a fetal position and cry,” said Snyder.  She thankfully discovered that her pension would be fine.  Byrn fired her for violating several court rules including providing assistance to a defendant.

“The document you chose was, in effect, your recommendation for a Motion for DNA testing that would likely be successful in this Division,” Byrn wrote. “But it was clearly improper and a violation of Canon Seven…which warns against the risk of offering an opinion or suggested course of action.”

Court spokeswoman Valerie Hartman said Byrn and other court officials wouldn’t comment.  Nelson’s attorney, O’Sullivan, also declined to comment.

“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…”


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