Sharon Snyder, who worked for 34 years as a court clerk in Kansas City, was fired after she helped a wrongly accused inmate gain his freedom, reports the Huffington Post.
Robert Nelson was charged with rape and sentenced to 50 years. Though he always proclaimed his innocence, DNA testing was not available at the time.
In an appearance on All In with Chris Hayes, Snyder explained how she gave Nelson a document that showed his family how to properly file for DNA testing, which ultimately led to his release and her firing.
“Oh yes, I would do it again,” Snyder said in her first national television interview with Nelson. “I am so happy that he got exonerated on this charge, and felt that would happen or he wouldn’t have filed that motion to start out with.”
Robert Nelson, 49, was convicted in 1984 of a Kansas City rape that he insisted he didn’t commit and sentenced to 50 years for forcible rape, five years for forcible sodomy and 15 years for first-degree robbery. The judge ordered the sentence to start after he finished serving time for robbery convictions in two unrelated cases prior to the rape conviction.
Those sentences ended in 2006.
In August 2009, Nelson filed a motion seeking DNA testing that had not been available at his trial 25 years earlier, but Jackson County Circuit Judge David Byrn denied the request. Two years later Nelson asked the judge to reconsider, but again Byrn rejected the motion because it fell short of what was required under the statute Nelson had cited.
After the second motion failed in late October 2011, Snyder gave Nelson’s sister, Sea Dunnell, a copy of a motion filed in a different case in which the judge sustained a DNA request.
Nelson used that motion – a public document Dunnell could have gotten if she had known its significance and where to find it – as a guide for a motion he filed Feb. 22, 2012, again seeking DNA testing. That August, Byrn sustained the motion, found Nelson to be indigent and appointed Laura O’Sullivan, legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project, to represent him.
The Kansas City Police Department’s crime lab concluded last month that DNA tests excluded Nelson as the source of evidence recovered from the 1983 rape scene and he was freed June 12.
“She gave me a lot of hope,” Nelson said of Snyder. “She and my sister gave me strength to go on and keep trying. I call her my angel. She says she’s not, but she truly is.”