A Missouri man has been in prison for 33 years. A new hearing could determine whether he was wrongfully convicted.

A hearing this week will determine whether Missouri inmate Christopher Dunn should be freed after spending more than three decades in prison for a murder he has always said he did not commit. Dunn’s conviction and life sentence without parole hinged on the testimony of two witnesses, a pre-teen and a young teenager, who have since admitted to lying during the trial.

St. Louis prosecutors are now convinced that Dunn is telling the truth, but lawyers from the Missouri Attorney General’s Office disagree and will advocate for keeping him behind bars. Dunn, 52, is serving a life sentence without parole at the state prison in Locking, Missouri, but he is expected to attend a hearing before Judge Jason Sengheiser that begins Tuesday.

The hearing follows a motion filed in February by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Gabe Gore. A Missouri law adopted in 2021 allows prosecutors to request hearings in cases where they believe there is evidence of a wrongful conviction.

Dunn was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of 15-year-old Ricco Rogers in 1990, based largely on the testimony of two boys who said they witnessed the shooting. The state’s witnesses, ages 12 and 14 at the time, later recanted, claiming they were coerced by police and prosecutors.

This undated photo provided by Kira Dunn shows Christopher Dunn. A hearing begins Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in St. Louis to determine whether the Missouri inmate’s murder conviction should be overturned.

Kira Dunn via AP, File


“I couldn’t tell you who Ricco Rogers was to save my life,” Dunn told CBS News and “48 Hours” correspondent Erin Moriarty in a “CBS Mornings” segment last November. He introduced himself as “an innocent man who has been in prison for a crime I did not commit and who fears dying in prison.”

Dunn, who at the time had suffered three heart attacks while incarcerated, said he was “trying to figure out what justice is in Missouri.”

Dunn has said he was at home with his mother when Rogers was killed. Even though there was no evidence to support the testimonies of those two teenagers who claimed to have witnessed Rogers’ murder, Dunn was convicted of the crime during a quick trial and has now spent 33 years in prison.

Moriarty attributed Dunn’s ongoing incarceration to a quirk of Missouri law.

“If Dunn had been on death row, he would be free by now. But he’s serving a life sentence without parole, which is pretty much the same thing,” Moriarty said. “But in Missouri, lifers have no right to claim their innocence, leaving their fate in the hands of a prosecutor whose office put them behind bars in the first place.”

Court documents show that the two main witnesses in Dunn’s trial recanted their testimonies, in sworn statements in which each admitted to perjury, in 2005 and 2015, respectively. But Dunn remained in prison.

In May 2023, then-St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed a motion to vacate Dunn’s sentence. But Gardner resigned days later and, after his appointment by Governor Mike Parson, Gore wanted to conduct his own investigation of him. Gore announced in February that he would seek to overturn the conviction.

Dunn, who is black, was 18 when Rogers was shot to death on the night of May 18, 1990. No physical evidence linked Dunn to the crime, but the two boys told police at the time that they saw Dunn standing on the walkway of the house next door, a few minutes before the shots rang out.

Rogers and the two children ran when they heard the gunshots, but Roger was killed, according to court records.

A judge has heard Dunn’s innocence case before.

At an evidentiary hearing in 2020, Judge William Hickle agreed that a jury would likely find Dunn not guilty based on new evidence. But Hickle refused to exonerate Dunn, citing a 2016 Missouri Supreme Court ruling that only death row inmates, not those like Dunn sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, could make an “independent” claim of real innocence.

The 2021 law resulted in the release of two men who spent decades in prison.

In 2021, Kevin Strickland was released after more than 40 years behind bars for three murders in Kansas City after a judge ruled he had been wrongfully convicted in 1979.

Last February, a St. Louis judge overturned Lamar Johnson’s conviction, who spent almost 28 years in prison for a murder he always said he did not commit. At a hearing in December 2022, another man testified that it was he, not Johnson, who joined a second man in the murder. One witness testified that police had “intimidated” him into implicating Johnson. And Johnson’s girlfriend at the time had testified that they were together that night.

A hearing date is still pending in another case challenging a murder conviction in Missouri for a man who was almost executed for the crime.

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell filed a motion in January to overturn the conviction of Marcellus Williams, who narrowly escaped lethal injection seven years ago for the 1998 fatal stabbing of Lisha Gayle. Bell’s motion It said three experts have determined that Williams’ DNA was not on the handle of the butcher knife used in the murder.