Robert Nelson

  • Exonerated: June 12, 2013
  • County of Conviction: Jackson County, MO
  • Convicted of: Manslaughter and two counts first degree assault
  • Sentence: Life + 15 years
  • Years Served: 29+

For years of his wrongful incarceration, Robert Nelson was denied DNA testing that would prove his innocence. 

Finally, in 2013, he got the justice he’d been fighting for. After nearly 30 years in prison for a 1983 sexual assault and robbery he did not commit, DNA testing proved that Robert was not the actual perpetrator of the crime. He left prison a free man in June of 2013.

Robert’s initial conviction was littered with the hallmarks of wrongful conviction. After an anonymous caller told police in 1984 the perpetrators of the crime were two brothers named “Ramsey,” police put Robert and his brother, O’Dell, in a lineup. The victim made a tentative visual identification of Robert, despite the fact he had an alibi at the time of the crime. His defense attorney also never presented his alibi defense at trial, nor was DNA testing of the crime scene ordered. 

In 2009, Robert was forced to file a motion for DNA testing on his own; it was denied then, and another was denied in late 2011. All along, evidence from the 1983 crime scene was being preserved — but not tested, as Robert continued to sit in prison. 

But after Jackson County prosecutors began working through cold cases in 2011, they began the DNA testing that would finally free Robert. Testing linked two other men, not Nelson, to the 1983 crime — nearly 30 years later. 

MIP and the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office filed a joint motion requesting that Robert’s conviction be vacated and the charges be dismissed. 

Robert finally regained his freedom — which never had to be lost, if only DNA testing had happened from the beginning. He will never get back the nearly 3 decades he lost to wrongful incarceration.