New hope for prisoner after 33 years, prosecutor asks court to dismiss murder conviction

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 9:23 AM CDT|Updated: May. 15, 2023 at 11:09 AM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Chris Dunn has spent 33 years in prison for a murder he has sworn he didn’t do.

He was convicted in a 1990 Saint Louis murder of teenager Ricco Rogers, also referred to as Recco Rogers, who was gunned down on a porch.

A judge agreed Dunn has legally proven he’s innocent under what’s considered a “freestanding claim of innocence.” But the judge pointed out Missouri law is only clear in death penalty cases- not others.

Dunn has the misfortune of being sentenced to life plus 90 years, meaning he’d be better off if he had been sentenced to death.

An appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court challenging the lack of clarity for those sentenced to life was not successful.

Dunn now has a new hope: Saint Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner has filed a new petition to vacate the murder charge, the same legal process used to free Kevin Strickland and Lamar Johnson.

Both of those men wrongly spent decades in prison.

This is likely one of the last actions by Gardner, who has already resigned. Gardner’s last day is June 1, and the Missouri Attorney General has argued there’s no reason for her to remain in office.

Dunn’s case falls apart

The case against Chris Dunn has fallen apart, but it wasn’t much, to begin with.

No physical evidence ever linked Dunn to the crime. The trial hinged on eyewitness testimony of young teens running away from gunshots in the dark.

Thirty years ago, the teens were compelling in court claiming Dunn must have killed Rogers over gang affiliations.

Now, they both admitted they lied.

One witness is now serving time for first-degree murder. His sworn affidavit read, “I lied on Chris Dunn to save myself.” The document claimed there was pressure from police and prosecutors and a deal for a troubled preteen.

The other claimed he was pressured by police and prosecutors and the dead teenager’s mother. He admitted, “We decided that we would both testify that it was Christopher Dunn who killed Recco. The truth is that we did not know who shot at us and killed Recco.”

The new filing states:

During the police interviews, Davis was hesitant about whether he could identify Dunn as the person who shot Rogers. (Id. ). But when he hesitated, police showed the boy gruesome photos of Rogers’ corpse, and pressured him, asking “Are you gonna let them do this to your friend?” Police also arranged to have Rogers’ mother call Davis, who through tears pushed him to testify and get rid of this “monster.” Just 12 years old, in the face of all this pressure, Davis was convinced to appear in court and identify Dunn as the shooter.

Additional witnesses

The most compelling witness might be Recco’s best friend. He was there that night and ran home to tell Recco’s mother what happened. The teenager says Recco was like a brother. He even lived with Recco’s family for periods of his life. No one bothered to interview him.

“I was standing right next to Recco when he was shot. I was positive that none of us could see or identify the shooter...I would have testified that Chris Dunn’s name come up after the shooting as speculation, and from there, people began to believe the shooter had been Chris Dunn, even though none of us could see the shooter.”

The detailed affidavit reveals neighborhood motivations due to gang affiliations and a girl.

Dunn has a parade of alibi witnesses. His family was with him when gunshots rang out.

Additionally, two women have stood by Dunn claiming they were talking with him on the phone that night. It was just normal conversation. One woman is sure of the date and time because she was in the hospital after giving birth and was watching the TV show “Hunter.”

The other woman was a teenager at the time of the shooting and her mother refused to let her participate in a trial due to rumored gang activity being the root cause of the murder.

Dunn is now represented in part by the Midwest Innocence Project, the same organization which supported Strickland and Johnson and successfully won their releases.

The MIP released the following statement: