A Missouri judge has ordered an over $800,000 restitution payment for a Black man who served more than 20 years in prison for a rape and robbery he did not commit. The state Attorney General’s Office had initially tried blocking the payments to the recipient Johnny Briscoe on the grounds that the exonerated man took too long to apply for the compensation, FOX 2 reported.
Briscoe filed for restitution 15 years after he was exonerated. Briscoe was sentenced to 45 years in prison in 1983 after a jury found him guilty of raping and robbing a woman in her apartment the year prior. Briscoe had maintained his innocence before and after his conviction. He was eventually exonerated by DNA in 2006 after spending 23 years in prison.
Following the restitution judgment, state authorities were ordered to immediately pay Briscoe $36,000. The exonerated man will continue receiving that amount annually for over 20 years. Briscoe would have been paid over $800,000 by the time he receives his final payment at the age of 90.
Per state law, the Missouri Department of Corrections is supposed to pay wrongfully incarcerated persons $100 for each day they spent locked up behind bars. The Missouri Attorney General’s Office tried blocking Briscoe’s payments, arguing that he waited too long to apply. But Judge Michael Burton sided with the St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office’s argument that there’s no legal deadline for when Briscoe could file for the restitution, FOX 2 reported.
“The court finds there is no explicit statute of limitation in the statutory cause of action under 650.058 RSMo. within which to file a petition for restitution,” Judge Michael Burton wrote in the ruling.
Responding to the ruling, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell said he felt the “court got it right.” “We talked to you about that just a few weeks ago – this is not only the legally correct ruling, but I think from a common sense standpoint it’s the correct ruling,” Bell added.
On October 21, 1982, a man forced his way into the St. Louis apartment of a woman where he brutally raped and robbed her at knifepoint. Following the rape, the male suspect remained with the victim in her apartment for an hour. During that period the man smoked a cigarette and identified himself as John Briscoe to the victim. The victim also smoked two cigarettes.
The male suspect was also said to have called the victim’s home multiple times after he had left and again mentioned he was called John Briscoe. The victim had called the police to report the incident at that time and officers were in her apartment when the calls came him, The National Registry of Exonerations said. “The call was traced by police to a payphone near Briscoe’s apartment,” the registry added.
The victim later identified Briscoe as the assailant both in a photo lineup and a live lineup. Despite maintaining his innocence, Briscoe was ultimately found guilty of rape, sodomy, burglary, robbery, stealing and armed criminal action. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
Following his conviction, Briscoe filed a motion requesting “DNA testing on the biological evidence collected at the crime scene” in an attempt to clear his name. That was, however, denied by the St. Louis District Attorney’s Office.
Briscoe’s case was eventually taken up by New Jersey-based non-profit Centurion Ministries in 2000. And though the organization also requested the St. Louis Crime Laboratory to look for evidence in connection to their client’s case, laboratory officials claimed the evidence gathered from the case was missing and “presumed destroyed.”
A breakthrough, however, came in 2004 after a laboratory inventory revealed the cigarette butts taken from the crime scene were still being stored in a freezer. The district attorney said his office only got to know that evidence was available in 2006.
Authorities were later able to establish the DNA on one of the cigarette butts tested was not Briscoe’s but rather matched that of another incarcerated person Briscoe knew.
“This man was known to Briscoe and may have used Briscoe’s name in the crime,” the registry said. Briscoe was eventually exonerated in 2006.
“It’s been a long struggle, hard struggle, but I held strong,” Briscoe told FOX 2 after his release in 2006.