The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS — A two-year investigation into whether a St. Louis man was executed for a crime he didn’t commit is expected to wrap up soon, the lead investigator in the case told The Associated Press Monday.
Rachel Smith, an assistant circuit attorney, is among three attorneys and two police investigators who have been looking into the case of Larry Griffin since July 2005.
Griffin was executed in 1995 for a fatal 1980 drive-by shooting. Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce ordered the investigation after the victim’s family, among others, came forward and expressed concern that Griffin was wrongfully convicted and executed.
Smith said she expects to turn in her report to Joyce by the end of this month. Unless Joyce orders further investigation, the report could be released to the public soon after that, Smith said.
Saul Green, a Detroit attorney who was among those pushing for Joyce to reopen the case, said the Missouri case is among four or five around the country in which investigators are looking into whether innocent people were executed.
“It would be a first, and that would be extremely significant,” Green said.
Griffin was 40 when he died by injection June 21, 1995, at the Potosi Correctional Center in southeast Missouri.
Griffin was convicted of killing Quinton Moss. Police said gunshots were fired from a moving car, striking Moss and another man. Moss was shot 13 times.
A witness gave police a description of the car and identified Griffin from police photos as the man in the front seat who fired the shots. Also, investigators determined Griffin had a motive: Moss had been arrested earlier in 1980, but never convicted, in connection with the death of Dennis Griffin, Larry’s other brother.
In June 2005, Joyce was approached by a group that included Green, noted attorney Barry Scheck and Sam Gross, a University of Michigan professor who had looked into the case. All three raised questions about whether Griffin was the shooter, alleging police failed to contact some witnesses and that Griffin’s trial defense was faulty.
Perhaps most compelling, Joyce said at the time, was the fact that Moss’ only family questioned Griffin’s guilt.
At the time of the execution, Griffin’s lawyers said the sole eyewitness had recanted. They said another man claimed to have joined three others in killing Moss.
Asked by The Associated Press days before the execution if he killed Moss, Griffin declared, “I did not! If I’m going to be punished for something, it ought to be for something that I did. Innocence doesn’t mean anything.”
Smith said her investigation involved nearly 80 interviews of people ranging from police to prostitutes who knew Griffin. She declined to discuss the findings but said she was confident in them.
“There’s a degree in which you can be very comfortable with your results,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t quantify it. But I will say we’ve done everything we think we can do to look at the issue and examine it thoroughly.”
Smith said the investigative team knows the potential impact of its findings.
“We are aware of the implications,” she said. “To us, it is an injustice when someone is convicted wrongly. The punishment magnifies the impact, absolutely.”
The Associated Press
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