Licensed in Missouri and Kansas

AN UPDATE ON OUR PRO BONO CASE TO FREE BYRON CASE

On December 5, 2023, attorney Brian Russell - in cooperation with Nicole Gordon, Quinn O’Brien, and  Sean O’Brien, former chief public defender in Kansas City, MO and current UMKC School of Law, Professor of Law - filed a Motion to Recall Mandate on Byron Case’s conviction. You can read those details, and see evidence, here.

What that update doesn’t mention is that in August 2022, the team put together a Conviction Review Application and submitted it to the Jackson County Prosecutor’s CIU (Conviction Integrity Unit). This application included new evidence, the offer to open our entire Byron Case file to them, and a template for a cooperation agreement to allow prosecutors to talk to Case, who is serving a life sentence at a prison in eastern Missouri.

We heard back in February 2023: the CIU is not interested in collaborating.

O’Brien has worked on several high-profile innocence cases and has been disappointed with the CIU. This sentiment is supported by local attorneys and advocates who say the CIU “has failed to take seriously its mission to correct wrongs in the criminal justice system.” This is based on, in part, the unit’s failure to follow several recommendations made by national experts, such as having written policies, creating a separate unit focused on collaborating when possible, not tasking CIU attorneys mostly with prosecutorial duties, and having a high barrier for case acceptance.

In Missouri, the CIU is even more important because due to the underfunding of and overload of cases in the state’s public defender system.

The current Jackson County prosecutor’s term ends in January 2025, and there has been discussion of an independent CIU unit, with written policies and an attorney with post-conviction experience that is focused exclusively on reviewing cases. The Kansas City Star recently reported on this, as well.

Until that time, we continue to move forward in our fight for Byron’s freedom.

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