CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — A Missouri man convicted of killing of a bar owner in 2000 despite a total lack of physical evidence linking him to the crime has been freed from prison after the state's top prosecutor decided not to retry him.
David Robinson, 49, was greeted with hugs and thanked his attorneys as he emerged from the Jefferson City Correctional Center at around 10 p.m. Monday, the Southeast Missourian reported.
"I know I'm being held to a higher standard," Robinson said about life going forward. "I can only say it's only just begun."
Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley and the county prosecutor issued statements that holding charges would be dismissed after Judge Darrell Massey, who was appointed to review the case for the Missouri Supreme Court, found in February that there was "clear and convincing evidence" that Robinson "is actually innocent" of killing Sheila Box. She was shot to death in 2000 after leaving a bar she co-owned in Sikeston, in Missouri's southeastern corner, with $300 in cash and checks.
On May 1, the state Supreme Court overturned Robinson's conviction, ruling that his constitutional rights had been violated, and gave Hawley 30 days to review the case to decide whether to retry him. Hawley would have had little evidence on which to re-try Robinson.
During the trial, prosecutors presented no physical evidence linking Robinson to the crime and two witnesses who placed him at the scene recanted. Another man, Romanze Mosby, confessed to several people in 2004 that he had killed Box, but he refused to sign an affidavit to make the confession official. He killed himself in his cell five years later and his confession was never introduced as evidence.
An investigation by the Southeast Missourian in Cape Girardeau found that Sikeston detective John Blakely knew Mosby was a suspect before the case went to trial but did not investigate the lead. In court testimony, Blakely denied that he framed Robinson. Massey found Blakely to be "lacking in candor or competence, or both." Blakely resigned last week.
Robinson acknowledged to The Associated Press in March that he was a troublemaker and has a criminal record that began when he was 15 and includes convictions for burglary, drugs and assault. But he has always said he was at a family gathering when Box was shot, and three relatives verified his alibi. Even Box's daughter said in March that she believed Robinson was innocent.
"He's been in prison way too long, but I'm ecstatic he's getting out," said Jim Wyrsch, one of Robinson's attorneys.