Man acquitted of murder after 8 years behind bars sues

December 22, 2017 GMT

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man acquitted of murder after eight years behind bars has filed a federal lawsuit alleging he was wrongfully convicted of killing his wife’s grandmother.

Michael Amick and his wife, Sara, a teacher, sued earlier this month, one year after winning his freedom. It accused southern Missouri officials of making false reports, fabricating evidence and failing to interview witnesses, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch .

Michael Amick initially was convicted of second-degree murder and second-degree arson in the 2008 shooting and burning death of 67-year-old Leona Maxine Vaughan in Oregon County, near the Arkansas border. The Post-Dispatch couldn’t reach the Oregon County Sheriff for comment.

The Missouri Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2015 because an alternate juror was called back to deliberate hours after being dismissed in violation of state law. A new trial held in Butler County ended in acquittal.

Jury foreman Lance Donze previously told the Post-Dispatch that the prosecution’s case hangs primarily on a witness who testified that he had seen Amick’s truck at the scene and that it was “not enough for any of us to put someone in jail for the rest of their life.” The witness was 19 at the time of the crime and had marijuana in his system. Lead defense attorney Adam Woody had argued that there was no physical or scientific evidence that placed Amick at the scene.

In a twist, the lawsuit also said that inmate James Higdon has said a fellow prisoner, David Youngblood, confessed to killing Vaughan with the help of a teenager. A judge ruled that Higdon’s statements wouldn’t be admitted at Amick’s second trial, partly because Higdon and Youngblood sought financial gain in exchange for the testimony.

Youngblood is serving life without parole for the deaths of four older adults who were burned and some of them also shot in two separate incidents in 2010 in homes about 30 minutes from where Vaughan died two years earlier. Youngblood’s wife and daughter also are in prison for the deaths, and the daughter’s former boyfriend is awaiting trial.

Youngblood said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he was out of state at the time of Vaughan’s death and didn’t kill her.

“What would it hurt me to say I did do it?” he said. “If I did do it, I would say I did it, but it ain’t the case.”


Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com