Grandmother serving life prison sentence hoping for last minute - KMOV.com

Grandmother serving life prison sentence hoping for last minute mercy from Gov. Nixon

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During her time in prison Judy Henderson has earned many certifications including a dog trainer. (Credit: Family photo) During her time in prison Judy Henderson has earned many certifications including a dog trainer. (Credit: Family photo)
Judy Henderson with her family. (Credit: Family photo) Judy Henderson with her family. (Credit: Family photo)
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

A grandmother serving a life sentence of 50 years without parole is making a last chance plea to Governor Jay Nixon in his final days in office.

Judy Henderson, 67, is serving her 35th year at a Chillicothe prison for her role in a robbery-turned-murder in 1981. It was a crime in which she participated, but didn't pull the trigger. 

“I’m a different woman today than I was back then,” Henderson said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Henderson is one of more than a dozen women seeking clemency from Governor Nixon.

“I’m praying that Governor Nixon has a heart of mercy and forgiveness,” she said.

Her attorney, Shannon Norman, said they delivered the clemency petition five years ago and have heard nothing.

“He has a duty and a responsibility to people of Missouri to exercise his clemency power when it is just and this is the right thing to do,” said Norman.

Norman said Henderson’s case is exactly why executive clemency exists. She has no criminal history prior to the incident and as the trial judge noted, she was a “relatively minor participant in the crime.”

Her attorney in 1981 represented her and her boyfriend. She wasn’t given proper council, and her boyfriend, who was accused of pulling the trigger, was acquitted because of lack of evidence to place him at the scene. Henderson was never asked to testify at his trial.

“I’m not angry, I don’t hold any animosity,” said Henderson. “And I thank God that I have had the therapy to become the woman I wish I could have been back then.”

In her 35 years in prison, Henderson has started programs for battered woman. She has become a certified paralegal, hair stylist, fitness instructor and trains therapy dogs.

“Everything I’ve done in 35 years is positive. I’m a model inmate, there’s so much I can contribute to society,” she said.

She has a job lined up if she does get clemency and a place to stay with her daughter in Kansas City. Henderson said the support of her children has been crucial.

“It’s been my life support, I would have to tell you it’s been my oxygen,” Henderson said of her children playing such a large role in her life.

In his two terms, Governor Nixon has given a total of 88 pardons and commuted three sentences. A spokesperson said the governor will make an announcement on any remaining pardons or commutations by the end of the week.

“I’m staying hopeful and in a playful mind,” said Henderson.

And she knows exactly what she will do if she gets to leave prison and move home with her daughter.

“What I want to do is just hold her in my arms,” she said.

Without clemency, Henderson will not have an opportunity for parole until she reaches the age of 83. 

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