Three decades after being sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing of another inmate, Reggie Griffin is officially free.  Griffin, now 53, has been out of prison since December awaiting retrial in the 1983 fatal stabbing of James Bausley.  On October 25th, prosecutor Mike Fusselman notified the court he would no longer pursue charges because there was insufficient evidence to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“To not have this over my head is more than what words can describe,” Griffin told The Associated Press, “Now that it’s over, I’m going to try to put my life back together, to go on with my life.”

In the 10 months since a judge assigned to oversee the case released Griffin on his own recognizance, he has been able to get a job and get married.  Griffin has also spoken to young people about his experiences in prison after a 1981 conviction for armed assault, in hopes to put them on a better path.

Despite a lack of physical evidence, Griffin, who was serving time for armed assault, was convicted of stabbing Bausley to death.  He was subsequently put on death row.  Later, his death sentence was overturned and he was resentenced to life in prison without parole.  The state had incorrectly used the criminal record of another inmate as an aggravating factor to pursue the death penalty against Griffin.  Griffin maintained his innocence in the stabbing, but was convicted when two jailhouse snitches claimed to have witnessed him doing it.  One of those inmates later recanted his testimony and admitted he had lied.  The other inmate has since died.

Griffin’s appellate attorney discovered that prosecutors withheld a prison guard report that a screwdriver had been confiscated from another inmate who was attempting to leave the area of the stabbing.

The Missouri Supreme Court threw out Griffin’s conviction in August 2011, saying it was no longer “worthy of confidence.” 

Eight weeks later, Fusselman filed a new murder charge and wanted to pursue a retrial.  He claimed at the time that DNA evidence linked Griffin to the murder weapon.  Fusselman admitted on Oct. 25th in court documents that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict.  He made his decision after realizing that DNA tests “didn’t pan out” and too many of the original witnesses either couldn’t be found, died, or recanted.

“It was challenging, a bit frustrating and a big learning case for me,” he said, adding that the decision wasn’t an easy one, “Once it’s made, I can’t come back and refile it…”

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, in a statement, backed that move saying it was “the appropriate and ethical decision at this time.”

Freedom_Reggie-GriffinCyndy Short, one of Griffin’s attorneys, said Wednesday that the U.S. justice system is one of the best in the world, but that cases like Griffin’s also show that it’s not perfect.

[Right:  Reggie Griffin taking his first steps outside of prison after being freed.]

“We humans are flawed, and those flaws have led to wrongful arrests, wrongful convictions and, unfortunately, this situation where time and time again you see prosecutors holding onto cases, even when evidence of innocence is clear,” she said.

Other known innocent death row inmates in Missouri are:

RELATED:  A list of some Non-Death Row Exonerees from Missouri

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