Eric Clemmons

Eric Clemmons was sentenced to death in 1987 and was exonerated in 2000

Eric Clemmons, a Missouri prison inmate, was sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing of another prisoner.

The case rested solely on the testimony of a corrections officer who saw the murder. He testified that, during the actual stabbing, he was too far away to see who the killer was, but gave chase and saw that the man was Clemmons.

At the trial in Greene County, Missouri, the defense called several prisoners who claimed the murder had been committed not by Clemmons but by a prisoner who died three months after the crime — a contention the prosecution portrayed as self-serving and unworthy of belief.

After his conviction, Clemmons, working on his own appeal, discovered an internal prison memorandum, prepared by a prison supervisor immediately after the crime, stating that the murder had been committed by the prisoner whom the defense witnesses had identified at the trial.

Based on that and other new evidence, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit granted Clemmons a new trial, at which he was acquitted. Clemmons is African American and the victim was Caucasian.