Governor Greitens Issues Flurry of Pardons and Commutations in Final Afternoon


Eric Greitens. - DOYLE MURPHY
  • Eric Greitens.
Eric Greitens has had a busy day. He's got moving vans to deal with, some 77 bills to sign and subpoenas to honor. Added to that to-do list: a stack of pardons and clemencies to issue.

In a press release, the governor's office announced this afternoon that Greitens has issued five pardons and commuted an additional four sentences. According to the release, among those who will be leaving prison thanks to Greitens are two men wrongfully convicted of murder, a 75 year-old woman convicted of a murder "that she did not commit or participate in" and a man serving an 80-year sentence for "stealing a Walkman, VCR, and other electronics."

Greitens did not, however, take further action on Marcellus Williams, a Death Row inmate given a last-minute reprieve by the governor last August. Greitens had asked a five-member board of inquiry to make a recommendation in the case, and supporters, including the NAACP, had urged him to pull a George Ryan and commute his sentence entirely. Greitens declined.

The commutations and pardons came less than two hours from the self-imposed 5 p.m. deadline for Greitens to pass the torch of governorship to Mike Parson.

"Each of the people on this list has a story to tell," Greitens said in a statement accompanying the press release. "I look forward to each of them having the chance to do that. Each of them has overcome injustice, and many have overcome abuse. Each of them has something to give to this state, and to the world.”

Here is the governor's full statement, followed by details on each of the pardons and commutations:

Today, Governor Greitens commuted sentences and issued pardons for several Missourians. The Governor released the following statement:

“The ability to make wrong things right, for Missourians who have not gotten fair treatment from our criminal justice system, is one of the most solemn and precious abilities of a Governor. I believe in justice, and I believe that with these actions today—justice will be done.

We have decided to issue 5 pardons, and commute 4 sentences. Their stories each deserve to be told. Today, I want to highlight a few. Jessie McKim is currently serving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, for a crime he did not commit. He has been behind bars for 20 years. He was convicted of murder, but since then, six experts have concluded that the cause of death identified at the time was completely wrong. Time and truth go hand in hand. It breaks my heart to know that Jessie, and others like him, served a day in prison for now-discredited accusations. We cannot undo what has been done. We cannot give him back that time. What we can do, is give him a chance to start again.

There are also cases of injustice. Alvis Williams was convicted of burglary—stealing a Sony Walkman, VCR, and other electronics—and sentenced to 80 years in prison for a burglary. He has already served 23 years. The prosecutor hoped, at most, to send him away for 20 years. He was sentenced to 80. That is 60 years longer than the prosecutor asked for, and 70 years longer than he could possibly be sentenced today. Alvin Williams has served his time.

These sentences were commuted. We also issued pardons: to wipe a person’s slate clean. It is the ultimate tool for reversing unjust acts, and for recognizing people who are deserving of our state’s mercy.

I pardoned Stacey Lannert today. She served 18 years in prison for killing her father—a father who abused and raped her constantly for years, and kept her silent under threat of death. When Stacey—still a teenager—discovered her father raping her younger sister, she grabbed her father’s gun and shot him dead. Since that day, Stacey has committed her life to serving others. Her sentence was commuted in 2009. She is a public defender. She has been an incredible resource to our team as we have worked in office to determine other Missourians who may deserve grace. She didn’t ask us for a pardon before we decided to issue one, but there is no one more deserving.

Each of the people on this list has a story to tell, and I look forward to each of them having the chance to do that. Each of them has overcome injustice, and many have overcome abuse. Each of them has something to give to this state, and to the world."

Rodney Lincoln – sentence commuted to time served.

Rodney Lincoln was wrongly convicted of capital murder and has served 34 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. DNA evidence and one eyewitness were used to convict him. Now, we know the DNA evidence was wrong and the eyewitness—the daughter of the victim—says he is innocent and wants him to be free.

Jessie McKim—sentence commuted to time served.

Jessie McKim was wrongfully convicted of murder two decades ago. Cause of death evidence has been re-examined, and experts believe it is clear that he is innocent.

Alvis Williams—sentence commuted to time served.

Alvis Williams’ sentence is grossly harsh. He is currently serving an 80 year sentence for stealing a Walkman, VCR, and other electronics—a crime which, under today’s laws, could not result in a sentence of more than ten years.

Verdia Miller—sentence commuted to time served.

Verdia Miller has served 35 years for a murder that she did not commit or participate in. She is now 75 years old, and had 15 years remaining on her sentence.

Stacey Lannert—pardoned.

Stacey Lannert was the victim of constant rape and abuse. When she finally killed her abuser, she was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Since then, her sentence has been commuted and now, as a public servant and advocate for justice, the charge will be removed from her record altogether.

Judy Henderson—pardoned.

Judy Henderson’s sentence was commuted by Governor Greitens in December 2017. Henderson was sentenced to life in prison for her role in a robbery-turned-murder. Her boyfriend—the man who committed the robbery, killed someone, and shot Henderson herself in the process—went free. She could have been out of prison decades ago if her lawyers had not lied to her about the offer of a plea deal.

Mark Whittle—pardoned:

Mark Whittle has been an exemplary public servant, even receiving the honor of Department of Mental Health Employee of the Year in 2009. He has a clean record, since he successfully completed probation for a DWI offense in 1996.

Gary Thomas—pardoned.

Gary Thomas is a former Marine whose only brush with the law is a fistfight in 2008. His record since then has been flawless.

Betty Coleman—pardoned.

Betty Coleman’s sentence was commuted by Governor Holden in 2004. She served 27 years in prison because her abusive boyfriend murdered someone, and she unknowingly and inadvertently played a role in the incident.

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