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Joe Amrine, 19th Anniversary of Exoneration

Joe Amrine was wrongfully accused of a prison murder and sentenced to death in Missouri. He spent 17 years on death row before he was exonerated in 2003. Today, July 28th, marks the 19th anniversary of his exoneration.

Joe's story of wrongful conviction and his experience with the courts, criminal legal system, inadequate counsel pre/during trial, faulty forensic science, false informant testimony, and many other instances of misconduct by investigators and the state outline very clearly all that is wrong with the death penalty system in Missouri.

Joe witnessed dozens of individuals taken away and subsequently executed while he was on death row.

As one of only four people exonerated from death row in the state, his case is one of the most important innocence cases in Missouri.


The case of Joseph Amrine, a Black man on death row for 17 years, plainly illustrates the injustice that intersects at innocence and capital punishment. In 2003, Amrine claimed that he was entitled to state habeas relief concerning his conviction and death penalty sentence. In Amrine v. Roper, the court was presented with the issue of “whether a Missouri prisoner sentenced to death [can] obtain habeas relief on a claim of actual innocence . . . independent of any constitutional violation.”

Historically, the writ of habeas corpus only addressed constitutional claims arising from state or federal courts. ‘Freestanding’ or ‘Actual Innocence’ refers to a case where a person is innocent and was wrongfully convicted, but there were no constitutional rights violations. Once the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that a freestanding innocence claim was acceptable in the death penalty case of Joseph Amrine, that decision codified that ‘actual innocence’ claims only applied in capital cases.

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