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After spending over forty years in jail for a murder, a 64-year-old Missouri woman with a history of mental illness was declared innocent by a judge; others now place the blame on a former police officer.

A judge this week ruled that Sandra Hemme’s innocence in November 12, 1980, murder of Patricia Jeschke in St. Joseph, Missouri, was “clear and convincing”.

She is still incarcerated, though, and on Tuesday the top prosecutor in Missouri asked a judge to put off her release.

Additionally, Missouri’s attorney general, Andrew Bailey, declared that his office would ask the state appeals court to review the judge’s ruling, which mandated that Hemmes be freed or retried within 30 days.

Hemmes’ attorneys contended in a petition for exoneration heard by Livingston County Circuit Judge Ryan Horsman that evidence from the 1980 murder suggests Michael Holman, a now-deceased St. Joseph police officer, was guilty of some crimes both before and after the death of 31-year-old Jeschke and was therefore directly connected to the murder.

The Friday-filed, 118-page petition was examined by NBC News.

Horsman also determined that Hemme’s trial lawyer was incompetent and that the prosecution withheld evidence that would have demonstrated Hemme’s innocence.

She is “the longest-known wrongfully incarcerated woman in the United States,” according to Hemme’s attorneys, who have filed a motion for her immediate release.

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The AG’s office alleged in a motion filed on Tuesday that Hemme had made statements about embracing violence and had attacked a prison staff member with a razor blade, despite her attorneys’ claims that she is not a threat. In 1996, Hemme entered a guilty plea for the attack. Regarding whether Hemme will face a new trial for Jeschke’s murder, no one from the Buchanan County prosecutor’s office was available to comment on Tuesday.

Incriminating remarks Hemme made during police interviews while suffering from a significant mental illness and under the influence of strong drugs prescribed to treat her condition was the only evidence, according to the appeal, connecting her to the 1980 crime.

“This Court finds that the evidence as a whole establishes that Ms. Hemme’s statements inculpating herself are inconsistent, contradicted by physical evidence and accounts of reliable, independent witnesses and that Ms. Hemme’s impaired psychiatric condition when questioned substantially undermine the reliability of those statements as evidence of guilt,” Horsman, the petitioner, stated. “… This Court further finds that no evidence whatsoever outside of Ms. Hemme’s unreliable statements connects her to the crime.” After taking up Hemme’s case, the New York-based Innocence Project claimed that she had been wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years.

“Ms. Hemme could not be linked by any witnesses to the crime scene, the victim, or the murder. There was no evidence that she had ever met Ms. Jeschke, and she had no motivation to harm her. The statement said that there was no forensic or physical evidence connecting Ms. Hemme to the murder.

According to the statement, Hemme was “forcefully given medication designed to overpower her will” while receiving treatment at a state psychiatric facility, and her “false and unreliable” admissions were the basis for her conviction.

The Innocence Project identified Holman and charged St. Joseph police with withholding evidence that could have implicated a colleague.

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“Fellow police officer Michael Holman, who was found using the victim’s credit card the day after the murder; whose truck was seen parked near the victim’s home at the time she was killed; in whose closet the victim’s earrings were discovered; and who in the months before and after Ms. Jeschke’s murder, committed many other crimes against women,” The Innocence Project said in a statement.

Requests for comment from St. Joseph police were not immediately answered on Tuesday afternoon.

Jeschke’s worried mother entered her apartment through a window the day after her murder and found her daughter’s body. A pair of pantyhose was fastened around her throat and her hands were secured behind her back. According to the petition, there was a knife beneath her cranium.

The horrific murder made headlines. Hemme didn’t come to anyone’s attention until almost two weeks later, when she turned up, armed with a knife, at the residence of a nurse who had previously attended to her and wouldn’t go.

She was found by police in a closet and taken back to St. Joseph’s Hospital. This was the most recent hospitalization in a string of ones that started when she was 12 years old and started hearing voices.

The day before Jeschke’s death was uncovered, she had been discharged from the hospital and had hitched nearly 100 miles to get to her parent’s house that evening.

Before being questioned by authorities, Hemme was placed under duress and placed in seclusion. The petition alleges that she was “forcefully administered antipsychotic medications via injection for more than 48 hours while involuntarily held at the hospital.”

Hemme “could not hold her head up straight” when she was first questioned because she was so heavily sedated, the plea said.

Hemme accepted a guilty plea in April 1981 in exchange for the death sentence being abolished.

As she couldn’t give enough details about what happened, the judge initially rejected her guilty plea. She said, “I didn’t know I had done it until like three days later, you know when it came out in the paper and on the news.”

After a little silence, she continued, and her guilty plea was acknowledged. On appeal, that request was eventually rejected. Nevertheless, after a single day of trial in 1985, she was found guilty once more.

The police agency was looking into Holman, the officer, before Hemme’s conviction. About a month after the murder, Holman was accused of fabricating reports that his pickup had been stolen to get paid by his insurance. The officer’s allegation that he slept the night with a woman at a nearby motel was refuted by the discovery of the same truck close to the crime scene.

On the day that Jeschke’s body was found, Holman tried to use her credit card at a photography store in Kansas City, Missouri. The policeman said he found the card in a pocketbook in a ditch; he was subsequently fired and passed away in 2015 NBC reported.

Officers searching for Holman’s home found in a cabinet a set of gold earrings fashioned like a horseshoe.

The earrings were recognized by Jeschke’s father as ones he had bought for his daughter. But the four-day investigation into Holman abruptly ended, and the petition claims that numerous documents found were never given to Hemme’s attorney.

The petition claims that the sole information presented to the jury during Hemme’s trial was that Holman attempted to buy a camera on Jeschke’s credit card.

Additionally, the State concealed details of his extensive criminal past, which included convictions for dishonesty, stalking, and several home invasions. The jury was not given access to additional evidence that demonstrated Holman was in the vicinity of Ms. Jeschke’s residence on the night she was killed and that his explanation for his presence in the neighborhood that evening was untrue, according to the court. “This Court also finds the record shows the SJPD failed to seriously investigate Holman as a suspect.”

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