updated 7/12/2005 7:41:29 PM ET 2005-07-12T23:41:29

Citing grave concerns that Missouri executed an innocent man, a coalition that includes a congressman, high-profile lawyers and even the victim’s family pointed to evidence Tuesday that they said could clear Larry Griffin’s name.

Prosecutors have decided to reopen the case of Griffin, who was convicted in 1981 in the murder of Quintin Moss, a 19-year-old drug dealer who was shot to death. Griffin maintained his innocence to the end, but was put to death in 1995.

Now, many people, including some members of Moss’ family, believe him.

“What I have heard recently is very troubling and leads me to believe an innocent man was executed for this murder, while the real killers have not been brought to justice,” said Rep. William Lacy Clay, D-Mo., who spoke at a news conference Tuesday with other supporters of Griffin.

Professor sheds new light on case
The news conference followed a report compiled by a University of Michigan Law School professor who discovered new information on the case in the last year. The report suggests that:

  • The first police officer at the scene of the 1980 shooting, Michael Ruggeri, now says that the story told by the supposed eyewitness was false, even though Ruggeri’s own testimony at trial supported what the witness said.
  • A second victim of the shooting, Wallace Conners, has said he was never contacted by the defense or the prosecution. Conners, now 52, who was wounded in the attack, said the supposed eyewitness was not present at the shooting.

“I tell all you all, Larry Griffin did not commit this crime,” Conners told reporters. “Larry Griffin definitely wasn’t in the car.”

The report, by Michigan professor Sam Gross, called into question the credibility of the only person who testified at the trial that he saw the murder. Robert Fitzgerald later testified at an organized crime murder trial and in other prosecutions, and “judging from news coverage, he developed a reputation as a snitch who couldn’t produce convictions,” Gross’ report said. Fitzgerald died last year.

There was no DNA evidence in the case, prosecutor Jennifer Joyce said.

Prosecutor: ‘I believe the jury did the right thing’
But Gordon Ankney, the original prosecutor who is now in private practice, believes Griffin was the killer.

“I believe the jury did the right thing, and nothing’s happened that’s led me to believe otherwise,” Ankney said.

Ankney said the new information discounts several facts from the case. He said an off-duty officer saw Griffin get in the car used in the drive-by shooting the day of the murder. He said the murder weapon was found in the car and that Conners told police twice he wouldn’t be able to identify who shot him.

He also pointed out there was testimony that Griffin killed Moss in revenge for the slaying of one of Griffin’s brothers, Dennis. Moss had been questioned by police in that shooting, but not charged.

Moss’ older brother, Walter Moss, is among those supporting a reinvestigation of the case.

“I myself am not here to accuse, blame or show anger. It’s been 25 years since my brother was murdered and 10 years since Larry Griffin was put to death for that murder,” Walter Moss said.

John Fougere, a spokesman for the state Department of Corrections, said he was unaware of any previous situation where a Missouri case was reopened after an execution.

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