Almost two years ago on August 2, 2011 the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the murder conviction of Reginald Griffin finding that the State had withheld exculpatory evidence and that post-trial developments had made the evidence upon which the conviction occurred “unworthy of confidence.”
In 1983 Reginald Griffin was serving time in the Missouri Department of Corrections in Moberly, Missouri. On July 12, 1983 a fellow inmate was stabbed in the prison yard. He died within minutes of the assault. His death was the beginning of a co-occurring tragedy when hours later prison guards took Reginald Griffin out of his cell, cuffed him and delivered him to administrative segregation. Five other inmates were also locked up that night and among them was the person who had, in fact, fatally stabbed James Bausley.
The prison investigator, however, focused his murder investigation on the wrong man eventually leading to the wrongful conviction of Reggie Griffin.
Within hours of the men arriving in administrative segregation the lead investigator sent in a snitch to wrestle a confession out one of the targeted inmates. The informant had been locked up with the target in the past and the target was known to be loose lipped. The informant was a vulnerable inmate who was looking for protection against predatory inmates, he was also mentally ill and a known liar.
He arrived in his cell next to his target and after the 2 men shared a joint, his target “sang like a bird” admitting that he had in fact killed inmate Bausley by plunging a 12” shank into the man’s chest. The informant reported back to the investigator only to learn that he had no interest in the man who had just confessed; he wanted another inmate named Reginald Griffin. He sent his informant back into population to give this some thought. It did not take long before the informant re-thought his role in the prosecution, and the next time he came forward he made himself a witness to the fatal event. He told the investigator in their second meeting that he had witnessed the murder and better yet he had seen Reggie Griffin stab the inmate in the chest. Five years later this false testimony was repeated in Mr. Griffin’s murder trial and the jury convicted him and then sentenced him to death.
The use of snitch testimony such as the kind concocted here has been the leading cause of wrongful convictions across the country.
Years later, the informant admitted he had lied and that he had been told what to say by the prison investigator. Shortly after Mr. Griffin’s trial and after his own capital trial the inmate who had killed inmate Bausley came forward and told the court under oath that 1) he was the person who had inflicted the fatal blow; and 2) that Mr. Griffin was not involved nor was he on the yard at the time of the homicide. Despite these confessions Mr. Griffin has had to fight for 25 years to undo the conviction that first sent him to death row in 1989. He has served everyday of the time he owed the state for the crimes that brought him to prison and he should not serve one more day for a murder committed by another inmate. It is time for the State of Missouri through the Attorney General’s office to fulfill its obligation and to serve justice by ending this wrongful prosecution of Reginald Griffin.