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Messenger: St. Louis sisters hope long effort to free brother in wrongful conviction nears happy ending | Tony Messenger



The “lie” is the one told at Michael’s trial, the one that said investigators found gasoline on his sneakers. It wasn’t true, and now, for the first time, the state admits it made a mistake. Filed with the petition is a letter from the state’s crime lab explaining that the original test that indicated that Michael’s shoes were doused in gasoline (which was used to burn his mother) was wrong. In the time since the crime, the state’s crime lab has adopted more advanced procedures, and also determined that many tennis shoes contain solvents that in testing show similar patterns to gasoline. Advancements in testing can distinguish between the two.

Michael’s tennis shoes did not contain gasoline, the crime lab now says. That was the primary piece of evidence that tied him to the crime. What makes the case that much more tragic is that the crime lab had changed its procedures from the time Michael was arrested, to the time he was put on trial four years later. But the lab didn’t re-test the shoes, and the prosecutor presented the evidence to the jury, and it went unquestioned by Michael’s public defender.

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“This was a kid who was suspected immediately based on no legitimate evidence or reason,” says Megan Crane, one of Michael’s attorneys. “They singularly focused on him within hours of the crime simply because they made wrong assumptions about how he was acting.”

One of the deputies at the time has filed an affidavit in the case saying that she has long had suspicions that Michael was innocent. In her affidavit, former Washington County deputy Tammy Nash says that officers rushed to judgment at the scene of the crime, where Michael found his dead mother, who had also suffered a blunt trauma to the head.

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