Justice: Denied -- The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted

 

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The Cruelty of Injustice

Seven alibi witnesses, but none heard in court.

Attorney fails to cross-examine accusers.

Gang members testify against innocent teen.

By Beth and Jesse Michael

Editor, Kira Caywood

The following is a summary of the statement Christopher wrote shortly after his arrest on May 19, 1990.

The night of the shooting, I, Christopher Dunn, was at my home from 10:55 p.m. on May 18, 1990, until the police arrived at 2:00 a.m. on May 19, 1990.

Late on May 17, some younger kids came to me and said they were scared that this man might be coming after them because their friend, Rico, shot him but didn't kill him. Now Rico shot this man because the man hit his mother.

So, later that night I stood with the kids for a while, but nothing happened.

We talked about it, and saw where blood was on the porch of Rico's house, so after they said they were okay, I went home. I saw Rico's mother and a glance of Rico in her blue car. His mother was taking him somewhere to protect him.

The next day, I went over to see how the younger kids were doing and went back to Rico's house. When I got there, I was met by more than ten youngsters, and we talked. I don't remember talking to Rico, but he could have been there; I saw his brother and sister. After talking to them for some time, I walked down the street.

I went over to a friend's house on St. Louis Avenue. I'd known her for years and I played like a stepfather to one of her kids. After talking to her, I went back to my mother's home around 8:30 p.m.

I watched TV with the rest of the family in the TV room. As we talked and played with my year-old nephew, my mother took my sister to the store around 9:00 p.m. My mother came right back, because the store was just up the street. Then my family and I watched the TV show "Hunter." After a while, my mother went to her room.

Then, at 9:30 I heard some loud music coming from the street. My sister's boyfriend, Wink, said, "That's my radio!" Earlier that day, Wink had told me that someone had stolen his tapes and radio. We knew the music was coming from our neighbor Bam Brown's car. I said, "Let's talk to him." We drove around to St. Louis Avenue and Arlington, to Bam's house. They turned over the tapes, and told us who had stolen the tapes and radio. So we just took the tapes home to my sister, because I was not into going anyplace I didn't know about, and just in case there was going to be a fight.

I went into my house at five minutes before 11:00 p.m. Then at 11:40 to 11:45 I got on the phone and called an old friend named Nicole who was in the hospital having a baby. I talked to the nurse at the front desk, and she said it was too late to be calling. So I said I was the father. I had to talk to another nurse and she put me through to Nicole Williams' room. We talked from 11:45 to 12:05 a.m. At 12:05, I had to get off the phone, but she said she'd call me back. Then, I called another friend, but she was not home, so I talked to her cousin, who was an old friend.

That's it. The murder had happened and we saw police cars driving down the street. But I didn't pay any mind to it. The murder happened two blocks away.

This was about 12:15 and the police got to my house to arrest me at 2:00 a.m.

chris dunn.gif (90376 bytes)An African-American man who grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, Christopher Dunn was 18 years old when Rico Rogers was shot and killed just after midnight on May 19, 1990. Most of that evening, Chris was in the company of seven people, including his mother and three siblings. At the time of the shooting, he was with these seven people inside his home, where he stayed until the police arrived to arrest him at 2:00 a.m. In addition to these seven people with alibis able to testify for him, phone records show a call Chris made to a friend at a local hospital that lasted throughout the time of the murder.

How could Chris be convicted with such a strong alibi? It is simple -- none of his witnesses were ever notified or called to testify. His court-appointed attorney told any inquiring witnesses that their testimonies were not needed.

Phone records were not presented in court. His attorney knew that Chris was innocent, and assumed that the State could not prove him guilty without any evidence. But his attorney was wrong.

The State had only two witnesses against Chris, but effectively portrayed these men as innocent bystanders. Both witnesses, as well as the victim, were gang members who were at war with a rival gang. The day before he was murdered, Rico Rogers shot a man from that rival gang. One State witness received fifteen years of probation in lieu of jail time in exchange for testifying against Chris. Both State witnesses repeatedly contradicted information on police reports.

Chris' attorney did not attempt to discredit these easily impeachable witnesses. She did not question their testimony. She did not even cross-examine them. She did not suggest that a rival gang member might have been motivated to avenge Rico's shooting of a fellow gang member the day before. She did not expose the deal between one witness and the State. She did not point out the many inconsistencies between the witnesses' testimony and police reports.

Rico's brother also witnessed the murder. In any other trial, the brother would have been the prosecution's star witness. Why wasn't he called to testify? Was his testimony not in line with the prosecution's angle?

Despite the lack of motive or physical evidence against Chris, the state presented a gun they claimed was the murder weapon. Again, Chris' attorney failed to defend him. She could have called a firearms expert to compare bullets from the victim with the supposed murder weapon, but she did not.

Why was Chris singled out and accused of murdering Rico Rogers? Chris feels he may know the answer. Well known throughout his community, Chris counseled and encouraged younger boys to quit gangs. Many youngsters took his advice, and turned away from gang life. Chris' anti-gang involvement made him a likely target for retaliation.

Side note: The witness who received the State deal in return for his testimony is currently in jail after being convicted of shooting and killing his girlfriend.

Ten Years Later

Chris is educating himself, learning about the justice system, and working to present his case. He filed a federal petition for a new trial, and is waiting to hear the results of that action. During these years, new evidence has added to the proof of his innocence. He received signed affidavits from two witnesses stating that they heard one State witness say Chris did not kill Rico Rogers. Also, newly revealed facts show that his attorney withheld and failed to use evidence that could have proven Chris' innocence. For example, Chris has proof that his attorney never called nor attempted to contact his witnesses to confirm his alibi.

For all the names and details of the case, contact:

Christopher Dunn
181654 J.C.C.C.
PO Box 900
Jefferson City, MO 65102

You may also want to contact Chris's state appeals attorney regarding Chris's case.

Craig Johnston
Office of the Public Defender
3402 Buttonwood
Columbia, MO 65201-3722
(314) 882-9855

A Message from Christopher's Parents:

We are Beth and Jesse Michael, Christopher's adoptive "Mama" and "Pops," and we will be eternally grateful to anyone who offers assistance to him. We believe that if you look into this case, you will agree that the wrong man is in prison suffering a life that he does not deserve. Thank you for reading this story and considering the facts.

Some of you may be asking, "What can I do?" If you are an attorney or a journalist, there may be ways you can directly help correct this gross injustice. He does not have an attorney -- we cannot afford one -- and he needs help. He did have a lawyer who appealed at the state level, but was denied.

Also, you can write to him at the address above. May God bless you. While we wait, please pray for Christopher.

Justice Denied

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