St. Louis prosecutor will attempt to throw out Christopher Dunn's conviction
Updated at 4:55 p.m. Feb. 7 with comments from Gore and Dunn's wife, Kira
St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore filed a motion Wednesday to vacate the conviction of Christopher Dunn.
“The eyewitness recantations alone are enough to show clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence in this case,” Gore said in a statement. “Justice requires that Christopher Dunn’s murder conviction be vacated.”
Last year, then-Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed a petition to vacate Dunn’s conviction days before her resignation. Gore, who halted those proceedings to do his own review, said he is confident the courts will agree with him.
“We have laid out basically additional evidence that supports and shows the reliability of the recantations as opposed to the trial testimonies,” Gore said.
The effort to free Dunn is long overdue, said Justin Bonus, one of his lawyers at the Midwest Innocence Project.
“For more than 30 years, Christopher Dunn has been imprisoned for a crime he did not commit,” the lawyers said in a statement. “This morning, St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore joined Chris’ call for justice and filed a motion to vacate Chris’ conviction because he is actually innocent.”
Dunn was 19 when he was convicted of the May 18, 1990, murder of Ricco Rogers based solely on the testimony of two adolescent boys who later recanted. In 2020, a judge in Texas County, where Dunn is in prison, ruled “this court does not believe that any jury would now convict Christopher Dunn under these facts.”
But the Missouri Supreme Court has held multiple times that it will only recognize freestanding innocence claims in death penalty cases and declined to consider Dunn’s. Freestanding innocence claims are those that do not require an underlying finding that the defendant’s constitutional rights were violated in the process.
That meant Dunn’s only hope was a 2021 law that allows prosecutors in the jurisdiction where someone was convicted of a crime to ask a court to set aside the conviction. It’s the same process that freed Lamar Johnson and Kevin Strickland. St. Louis County prosecutor Wesley Bell has filed a similar motion in the case of Marcellus Williams, who is on death row.
The law gives state Attorney General Andrew Bailey the right to participate in the process. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether he would fight the move.
Dunn’s wife, Kira, said she’s overjoyed by the news but won’t fully relax until her husband is released.
“You're afraid to get too hopeful, you're afraid to be too happy, because you know that rug can be snatched out from under you at any moment,” she said. “That being said, on momentous days like this, we definitely feel joy and hope, and we’re looking forward to the next steps.”