July 16, 2024

Court overturns woman’s murder conviction after 43 years in jail

A Missouri judge has overturned the conviction of a United States woman, Sandra ‘Sandy’ Hemme, who spent 43 years behind bars for a 1980 murder.

In a remarkable turn of events, Judge Ryan Horsman ruled that Hemme has established her actual innocence and must be released within 30 days unless the prosecution decides to retry her for the murder of 31-year-old Patricia Jeschke, a library worker.

The New York Post reports that it all began on November 13, 1980, when Patricia Jeschke’s failure to report to work prompted her worried mother to investigate her apartment.

However, the mother later discovered Jeschke’s daughter’s lifeless body lying on the floor, naked and surrounded by a pool of blood, after gaining entry through a window.

Her body was found bound and gagged, with her hands tied behind her back with a telephone cord, pantyhose wrapped around her throat, and a knife placed under her head.

Sandra Hemme was not initially a suspect in the murder investigation until she appeared at a nurse’s home nearly 14 days later, carrying a knife and refusing to leave.

Police found Hemme hiding in a closet and took her into custody, transporting her back to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where she had been a patient numerous times since the age of 12 when she began experiencing auditory hallucinations and was hospitalized for her mental health.

The New York Post wrote that the judge deemed Hemme’s trial counsel inadequate and criticized prosecutors for withholding crucial evidence that could have exonerated her.

Hemme’s legal team, who argued for her immediate release, highlighted that her 43-year incarceration is the longest recorded instance of a woman serving time for a wrongful conviction.

The judge’s ruling acknowledges the miscarriage of justice and paved the way for Hemme’s long-overdue freedom.

“We are grateful to the Court for acknowledging the grave injustice Ms. Hemme has endured for more than four decades,” her attorneys said in a statement.

When initially interrogated about Patricia Jeschke’s murder, Sandra Hemme was subjected to harsh conditions, her lawyers revealed.

She was handcuffed with wrist restraints and heavily sedated to the point of near-incapacitation, unable to hold her head upright or respond beyond brief, unintelligible utterances. This coercive interrogation raises serious concerns about the reliability of any statements made during that time.

In a petition seeking Sandra Hemme’s exoneration, her lawyers argued that authorities disregarded her inconsistent and contradictory statements, which were likely coerced, and withheld crucial evidence that implicated Michael Holman, a former police officer who attempted to use the victim’s credit card. Notably, Holman is now deceased.

The judge acknowledged that there is no credible evidence linking Hemme to the crime, aside from her own unreliable statements, which were likely made under duress.

“In contrast, this Court finds that the evidence directly ties Holman to this crime and murder scene,” the judge wrote.

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