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Court Staffer Fired for Helping Wrongfully Convicted Man

No good deed goes unpunished.

Just 9 months away from retirement, 70- yr old Sharon Snyder was fired from her job at the Missouri Court for giving a wrongfully convicted man a form to request a DNA test. That DNA test would eventually set him free.

(Newser) – Sharon Snyder is 70 years old. She's a great grandmother and has been working at a Missouri court for 34 years. In 2011, she gave an imprisoned man trying to overturn a 27-year-old rape conviction a public document to help him seek DNA tests. Last month, those DNA tests helped Robert Nelson go free. And then Snyder was fired. A Jackson County Circuit judge says she violated court rules by helping Nelson and his family—even though they could have obtained the document she provided them with themselves if they'd known what it was and where to get it, the Kansas City Star reports.

"The document you chose was, in effect, your recommendation for a Motion for DNA testing that would likely be successful in this Division," the judge wrote in his dismissal letter. "It was clearly improper and a violation of Canon Seven ... which warns against the risk of offering an opinion or suggested course of action." Snyder was nine months away from retirement when she was fired. "I lent an ear to his sister, and maybe I did wrong," she says. "But if it was my brother, I would go to every resource I could possibly find. I think I might have been the answer to his prayers.
There are technical rule violations and then there is the right thing.

When justice is done after 27 years of horrible injustice, somebody has to be punished. But it isn't going to be anyone responsible for putting an innocent man behind bars. Going after the little old lady with her heart in the right place is easier.

*subhead*No good deed unpunished.*subhead*

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Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

What a pity. Truly, justice is blind and ignorant in this case. The system should be doing everything possible to set wrongly convicted people free. Most of the time, it is circumstantial evidence or a prosecutors ambitions for a conviction which put innocent people in jail. I am involved in Catholic Ministry at a Fed prison where I live, and sometimes the inmates slip and tell a bit of their story. Wrong place, wrong time about 50% of the time. I hope Sharon is reinstated or at least given her pension. Anything else would be a slap in the face of what of right. Right vs legal is pretty much a joke nowadays. I shall pray for her and the innocent man who is now free. Peace and God bless

Maureen said...

This is horrible, and this woman needs to be reinstated. A 27-year old mistake was righted. The woman should be saluted, not fired. Technicalities are important, but not when they impede the moral outcome.

Subvet said...

So who sleeps better at night, that district judge or Sharon Snyder?

Bookworm said...

It sounds like the case in question involved documents that were covered by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which the federal government and most if not all states have. The details vary from state to state but generally, FOIA allows members of the public to file a formal request with a public agency to obtain specified documents, and the public agency then has to respond within a certain time frame (e.g. 5 or 7 business days).

In hindsight, perhaps Snyder could have avoided getting in trouble by telling the sister to file a FOIA request for all similar motions filed in that court district during a particular time frame. However, simply giving her the document instead of making her jump through the bureaucratic hoop of filing a FOIA request probably seemed like a more sensible and compassionate thing to do (and it was).

Also, the original article from the KC Star says that Snyder will still receive her pension so at least she doesn't have to worry about that.

Finally, gotta love the geographically challenged commenters at Newser who ranted about how stupid and backward Kansas people are. News flash: Kansas City is in Missouri (or at least the major city part is; there is a Kansas City, Kansas, but it's more of a suburb of KCMO).


Christi H said...

When a rule is broken, there has to be consequenses. Im glad she did it though. I just wish the consequense hadnt been her losing her job. Couldnt they have briefly suspended her?

Unknown said...


In this case, the consequence should have been official ignorance as to how things happened, with unofficial attagirls. The government excels at unofficial ignorance on how rules are broken when convenient.

Were I the Governor of MO, I'd issue an executive order reinstating her with back pay.

Dave P.

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