SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A judge ruled Thursday that a southwest Missouri man was wrongfully convicted in the death of his wife, who died of a gunshot wound in their home on Christmas Day 2006.
Judge Robert Beger’s ruling tosses the murder conviction of Brad Jennings, 61, of Buffalo, who is serving a 25-year sentence. It isn’t yet clear if the Missouri attorney general’s office will re-try the case or allow Jennings to go free, the Springfield News-Leader reported.
Lisa Jennings’ death at age 39 was initially ruled a suicide before charges were brought against her husband, who was convicted in 2009.
But Beger cited concern about the failure of Missouri State Highway Patrol detectives to disclose a gunshot residue test from Jennings’ robe that indicated it was unlikely he fired a gun previous to his wife’s death. The evidence wasn’t uncovered until 2016 by an attorney working for Marsha Iler, Brad Jennings’ sister.
A previously disclosed test found gunshot residue was not on Brad Jennings’ hands, but was present on Lisa Jennings’ right hand.
Beger wrote in his 19-page ruling that the robe testing “could easily have tipped the scales in favor of another verdict — not guilty.
“At the very least, the nondisclosure undermines confidence in the verdict against Mr. Jennings and places the case in an entirely different light,” Beger wrote.
Jennings’ attorney, Robert Ramsey of St. Louis, said he told Jennings that the news means “there was light at the end of the tunnel.”
The couple had been married 18 years before Lisa Jennings’ death.
Iler is a registered nurse who has spent $200,000 in an effort to prove her brother’s innocence. Iler said she wept when she was told of the judge’s ruling.
“We don’t hardly know how to feel,” Iler told the News-Leader. “We hoped for this … We are just blown away.”
The attorney general’s office took over prosecution after the Dallas County prosecutor withdrew, citing a conflict of interest because he attended the same church as the Jennings family. A message seeking comment from the attorney general’s office was not immediately returned.