Dale Helmig was convicted of killing his mother Norma Dean Helmig in 1993 and began serving his prison time in 1996. Norma Helmig’s body was found on August 1, 1993 strapped to a concrete block in the Osage River. As stated in the movie that we watched in class, Dale had spent the night in a motel in Fulton and was not able to cross the bridge over the Missouri River to his and his mother’s house in Linn, Missouri. While at his motel, he had a pizza delivered at 10:30pm. Schollmeyer and Hulshof, the prosecuting attorneys speculated that the bridge reopened therefore giving Dale a window in which he could have returned home and killed his mother. Their speculated motivation: a $200 phone bill. His conviction has been question by many since he was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1996.
In June of 2009, Helmig filed a petition with the Missouri Supreme Court seeking a new trial. In his petition, he alleged that former U.S. Representative Kenny Hulshof who the prosecuting attorney, withheld evidence that would have proved his innocence and knowingly presented false evidence and testimony. Helmig’s petition also stated that Hulshof was motivated by his political campaigns. This is not Hulshof’s first time at being negligent with his actions resulting in a unlawful conviction. Joshua Kezer served 15 years in prison on a murder conviction and was freed in 2009 when a judge ruled that Hulshof again withheld evidence and embellished details during his closing arguments.
As stated in the lawsuit, several important factors that played a key role in his conviction were presented falsely at the trial or not included at all. An allegation that Dale had thrown coffee on his mother a few days prior to her death are untrue, prosecutors referred to this “fact” many times. The second, Dale stayed away from Norma’s house during several searches lead to the accusation of “conscious of guilt” when Dale was told to not bring his children to the scene of the crime. The third, It was not disclosed at the trial that Norma feared her husband and had previously sought an order of protection against him and had also talked to the sheriff about buying a handgun. Finally, Dale’s attorney Christopher Jordan showed signs of “clearly deficient” judgment and performance throughout the trial.
In years since, Dale has filed a federal lawsuit against Osage County, Osage County Sheriff Carl A. Fowler, former deputy Paul Backes, and former Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Robert Westfall claiming they all violated his constitutional rights. The lawsuit contains allegations of malicious prosecution, false arrest, the willful withholding of exculpatory evidence, fraudulent investigative techniques and a wrongful conviction. Ironically, Hulshof’s name is not mentioned in the lawsuit to which Dale responds that Hulshof always supported his innocence.
As future leaders in the criminal justice system, we must ask ourselves how we can prevent wrongful convictions such as Dale’s from happening again. We must also question if at any time people within the police department, prosecution attorney’s office, or defense attorney’s office working on the case knew that Dale was being charged for a crime he did not commit and so, why did they decide to stay silent. If this happens to be the case, what factors could have played in this? Were people who knew the truth afraid of losing their political power, peer recognition, or even careers if they were to speak up? We may all come across a future case like this and it is our duty to stand by our ethics and speak up when needed.