State of Missouri v. Joseph Amrine

741 S.W.2d 665 (Mo.banc 1987)

7/28/03 – Prosecutor will not retry Amrine. (July 28, 2003, Jefferson City) A Kansas City man whose death sentenced was overturned by the Missouri Supreme Court earlier this year will be released from jail today. The Cole County prosecutor in Jefferson City has announced his decision NOT to retry Joseph Amrine in the death of a former state prison inmate. Three former inmates who initially testified against Amrine recanted their statements.

4/29/03 – Missouri Supreme Court orders Amrine discharged. (April 29, 2003, Jefferson City) The Supreme Court of Missouri handed down its decision in State ex rel. Joseph Amrine v. Donald P. Roper, a habeas proceeding based on claims of actual innocence. It was argued Tuesday, February 4, 2003. In a 4-3 decision written by Judge Teitelman, the Court ordered that Amrine be conditionally discharged 30 days from the date the mandate issues in this case unless the state elects to file new charges against Amrine in relation to the murder of which he was convicted. Judge Wolff wrote a concurring opinion. Judge Benton and Judge Price wrote dissenting opinions.

4/30/03 – Audio: Missourinet interview with Joseph Amrine from the state prison in Potosi on April 30, 2003. 15 min

AmrineJCase Facts: Amrine and the victim, Gary Barber, were housed in the special management unit or “supermax” area of the penitentiary (Missouri State Penitentiary) during October of 1985. In early October, Amrine became aware of “rumors” being circulated by Barber concerning an illegal incident in which Barber committed a homosexual act upon Amrine when they were cell mates in the “general population” area of the penitentiary. Inmate Randy Ferguson testified that on October 3 he overheard a conversation between Amrine and Joe Moore during which Moore commented “if somebody had treated him like that or done something like that to him, he would kill him”. Amrine replied “Don’t think that that ain’t what I plan to do”.

Ferguson also related that on October 7 Amrine informed him and three other inmates that he planned to stab Barber the next day and wanted them to “block.” Inmate Terry Russell testified that Amrine told him that he intended to “stick” Barber when the inmates went to the “yard”; however, that opportunity did not arise. Russell explained that on the morning of October 8 Amrine confronted Barber about the rumors, and after some discussion Amrine and Barber came to where Russell was standing. Amrine asked Russell to repeat the accusations in front of Barber and Russell stated that Barber “was going around telling people he had sex with Amrine,” to which Barber did not respond. Amrine said “okay” and walked away, but a fight broke out between Russell and Barber as a result of the allegations and they were placed in detention until October 18.

Ferguson testified that on the evening of October 17, 1985, the night before Barber and Russell were released from detention, he overheard a conversation between inmates Omar Hutchison, Daryl Saddler and Clifford Valentine concerning a knife and observed Saddler go up to the floor above them and pass a knife down to Hutchison. Following lunch on October 18, the inmates from Amrine’s unit were released to the multipurpose room for recreation. Two guards, Officers Thomas Smith and John Noble, were on duty supervising the 45 to 50 inmates in the room that day. The doors to the recreation room were locked and the inmates could enter and exit the room only through the front door, which was guarded by Officer Noble. When Ferguson arrived at the multipurpose room he began working out on a punching bag and saw Hutchison enter the room, approach the window, remove an ice-pick type weapon from his waistband, and tape the weapon to the outside of the building.

Ferguson later saw Amrine go to the window and retrieve the knife, which he placed in the waistband of his pants. Amrine approached Barber, who was sitting alone in the corner of the room, knelt down and started a conversation. The two men got up and began pacing around the room. during which time Amrine placed his arm around Barber’s shoulder. Amrine subsequently took his arm off Barber’s shoulder, pulled the knife from his waistband and stabbed Barber in the back behind the shoulder blade. Amrine turned and ran while Barber removed the knife and chased Amrine toward the front of the room. Barber then stated “Joe, I’m going to get you,” dropped the weapon and collapsed not far from Officer Noble. Shortly thereafter Barber died as a result of the stab wound. The stabbing was witnessed by Ferguson and inmate Jerry Poe, both of whom identified Amrine as Barber’s killer.