A federal judge has thrown out a first-degree murder conviction and ordered the release of a man imprisoned for nearly a decade in the death of his mother.
In the ruling released Monday, Dale Helmig’s conviction was overturned on the grounds that jurors were given material during deliberations that had not been introduced as evidence during his trial.
State and local prosecutors can still choose to retry Helmig, 48, for the 1993 death of his mother, Norma, whose body was found tied to a concrete block in the Osage River near her Linn home.
A spokesman for Attorney General Jay Nixon said the state’s lawyers haven’t decided how to proceed.
The reversal by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Noce of St. Louis revolved around a highway map that contradicted photos and other maps that jurors had seen as they considered whether Helmig had enough time to dispose of the body.
The case was the subject of a documentary by students at Illinois State University. The film alleges that the trial featured a shoddy defense, selective presentation of evidence and an opportunistic prosecutor.
The filmmakers contend prosecutor Kenny Hulshof used Helmig to portray himself as tough on crime during an election campaign. Hulshof, who won a seat in Congress, has rejected any link between the trial and the campaign.
Hulshof could not be reached late Monday. But in an interview with The Associated Press last week, he said, “In my mind, there’s no doubt” Helmig killed his mother.
Helmig’s attorney, Sean O’Brien, said his client viewed Monday’s ruling “with cautious optimism.”