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Hearing on reversing 1990 St. Louis murder conviction of Christopher Dunn to begin

Chris and Kira Dunn pose for a photo in 2023 at the South Central Correctional Center.
Kira Dunn
Christopher Dunn poses with his wife, Kira, during a 2023 visit at the South Central Correctional Center in Licking, Missouri. Dunn is serving a life sentence for a murder that St. Louis prosecutors now say he did not commit.

A St. Louis judge will begin hearing evidence Monday in an attempt by prosecutors to free Christopher Dunn from prison.

Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore filed a motion to vacate Dunn’s murder conviction in February. Over the course of three days, attorneys from his office will lay out the reasons they believe the judge should throw out the charges.

“His case presents all of the hallmarks of a wrongful conviction,” Gore wrote in his motion.

Chris Dunn talks to 'St. Louis on the Air'

A jury convicted Dunn of a 1990 killing based solely on the testimony of two adolescent boys who later recanted. Dunn’s mother, sister and friends all said he was elsewhere on the night of the slaying – evidence that was not brought up at Dunn’s initial trial.

In 2020, a judge in Texas County, where Dunn is in prison, ruled that he did not think anyone would convict Dunn based on the available evidence. But the Missouri Supreme Court has held multiple times that it will only recognize freestanding innocence claims in death penalty cases. Since Dunn was sentenced to life without parole, the court declined to consider his case.

The hearing will begin days after the one-year anniversary of former Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s resignation. She had filed a similar petition just before she stepped down. Gore withdrew it to conduct his own review.

The state law creating the mechanism for prosecutors to review a case gives the attorney general the right to defend the conviction. That office has been aggressive in the past in arguing against efforts to vacate, and documents filed with the court indicate that stance has not changed.

The process is the same one used to free 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.

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.