Missouri Circuit Court Overturns Sandra Hemme’s Murder Conviction After 43 Years

The Court found that Ms. Hemme, who is the longest-known wrongly incarcerated woman in the U.S., proved her actual innocence.

Case Update 06.17.24 By Innocence Staff

Sandra Hemme (center) with her sister and mother. (Image: Courtesy of the Hemme family)

Sandra Hemme (center) with her sister and mother. (Image: Courtesy of the Hemme family)

Attorneys for Sandra Hemme released the following statement on June 15 in response to the ruling: 

On June 14, 2024, Livingston County Presiding Judge Ryan Horsman overturned Sandra Hemme’s conviction in the 1980 murder of Patricia Jeschke in St. Joseph, Missouri — a crime for which Ms. Hemme has been wrongly incarcerated for the past 43 years. 

No witnesses linked Ms. Hemme to the murder, the victim, or the crime scene. She had no motive to harm Ms. Jeschke, nor was there any evidence that the two had ever met. Neither did any physical or forensic evidence link Ms. Hemme to the killing. The only evidence that ever connected Ms. Hemme to the crime was her own unreliable and false confessions: statements taken from her while she was being treated at the state psychiatric hospital and forcibly given medication literally designed to overpower her will. 

At the same time, the St. Joseph Police Department hid evidence implicating one of their own: fellow police officer Michael Holman, who was found using the victim’s credit card the day after the murder; whose truck was seen parked near the victim’s home at the time she was killed; in whose closet the victim’s earrings were discovered; and who in the months before and after Ms. Jeschke’s murder, committed many other crimes against women.  

In its ruling, the Court found that Ms. Hemme proved evidence of her actual innocence, noting that “the only evidence linking Ms. Hemme to the crime was that of her own inconsistent, disproven statements, statements that were taken while she was in psychiatric crisis and physical pain.” Meanwhile, the Court found, evidence implicating Mr. Holman was so significant, “it would be difficult to imagine that the State could prove Ms. Hemme’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt based on the weight of the evidence now available that ties Holman to this victim and crime and excludes Ms. Hemme.” 

We are grateful to the Court for acknowledging the grave injustice Ms. Hemme has endured for more than four decades. We will continue to fight until all charges are dismissed and Ms. Hemme is reunited with her family.

Sandra Hemme is represented by Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Jane Pucher and Staff Attorney Andrew Lee. She is also represented by UMKC Professor of Law Sean O’Brien.

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