A woman who’s served more than 35 years in a Missouri prison for a capital murder conviction was released from the Chillicothe Correctional Center (CCC) in northwest Missouri Wednesday afternoon.
Governor Eric Greitens (R) traveled to Chillicothe Wednesday to sign an order commuting Judy Henderson’s sentence to time served: 35 years and 111 days.
Henderson had been serving a life sentence for her role in a 1981 robbery-turned-murder in southwest Missouri’s Springfield.
Governor Greitens says he reached the decision after he and his legal counsel reviewed thousands of pages of reports, letters and records in the case.
Greitens notes the judge who sentenced Henderson in 1982 described her role in the case as “relatively minor.” Greitens also says the former Greene County Prosecutor who tried the case against Henderson, Thomas Mountjoy, says Henderson’s case is the first time he’s supported clemency for someone he’s prosecuted.
Mr. Mountjoy handled thousands of prosecutions in his career.
Greitens alleges that Henderson wanted to testify against her boyfriend, who Greitens says pulled the trigger and killed a Springfield jeweler. The governor says Henderson did not know the boyfriend was bringing a gun to the robbery.
Governor Greitens also alleges that the boyfriend and his attorney paid four prisoners up to $2,500 each to lie under oath that Henderson had confessed to acting alone.
Governor Greitens’ spokesman, Parker Briden, tells Missourinet that the governor’s commutation was effective immediately.
Missouri Department of Corrections (DOC) spokeswoman Karen Pojmann tells Missourinet that Henderson was released from the Chillicothe prison at 2:35 on Wednesday afternoon.
Pojmann says Greitens arrived at CCC at 12:51 p.m. and met with Henderson at 12:59. She says Greitens left the prison at 1:06 p.m.
Governor Greitens’ office says Missouri’s Probation and Parole Board recommended in 2004, 2007 and 2013 that the governor grant Henderson clemency and commute her sentence to allow for the possibility of parole.
Bob Holden (D) was Missouri’s governor in 2004, Matt Blunt (R) was governor in 2007 and Jay Nixon (D) was governor in 2013.
Greitens’ decision to commute Henderson’s sentence to time served is being praised both lawmakers in both parties.
State Rep. Tracy McCreery, D-Olivette, tweeted Wednesday: “Thank you for doing the right thing Governor Greitens.” McCreery also tweeted at Missourinet: “The Governor and his team are carefully looking at all the details.”
And State Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, tweeted that his constituent, attorney Shannon Norman, “worked very hard on this commutation.” Christofanelli also tweeted: “Thank you to our governor for taking action on this important issue. I hope to work on broader criminal justice reform in coming session!”