JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- A divided Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned an inmate's murder conviction for the 1983 stabbing death of a fellow prisoner, ruling that prosecutors had failed to share evidence that could have aided the inmate's case.
The court ordered the release of inmate Reginald Griffin within 60 days, unless prosecutors decide before then to retry the murder case. Griffin has been serving a sentence of life without parole after being convicted of fatally stabbing inmate James Bausley in the chest on July 12, 1983, at a prison facility in Moberly.
In a 4-3 decision written by Chief Justice Judge Richard Teitelman, the Supreme Court majority said prosecutors should have shared with Griffin's defense attorneys the fact that prison guards had seized a sharpened screwdriver from another inmate near the scene. The court said that could have supported a defense argument that someone else committed the murder.
In a dissenting opinion written by Judge Mary Russell, the court's minority countered that the screwdriver was not favorable to Griffin's case, because medical evidence showed the victim's wound was consistent with a longer knife-like weapon. They noted that a homemade knife was found 20 feet from the crime scene.
At trial, prosecutors presented testimony from two inmates who said they saw Griffin stab Bausley with a knife after an argument over a television.
Griffin initially was convicted and sentenced to death. But after his sentence was overturned in 1993, Griffin was re-sentenced to life in prison.
Griffin had been sent to prison in 1981 from St. Louis for convictions on robbery, assault, carrying a concealed weapon, drug possession and receiving stolen property, said Department of Corrections spokesman Chris Cline. Griffen is to turn age 51 on Aug. 18, according to department records.
According to a column by a childhood acquaintance of Bausley's that was published in 1997 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bausley was convicted of second-degree murder for driving the get-away car in the 1979 shooting death of Jule Gordon in St. Louis. Bausley was 18 years old at the time.