A Kansas City man freed from prison three decades after being wrongfully convicted of rape considers Sharon Snyder his “angel” for giving him a public document that showed him how to properly seek DNA tests…. Jackson County Circuit judge [David Byrn] considers the 34-year court employee an insubordinate for offering legal advice and being too chatty about courthouse matters…. Sharon Snyder, a 70-year-old great-grandmother who was fired nine months before she was scheduled to retire… insists she would provide the same help if she had a chance to do it again.
Robert Nelson, 49, was convicted in 1984 of a Kansas City rape that he insisted he didn’t commit and sentenced to 50 years for forcible rape, five years for forcible sodomy and 15 years for first-degree robbery…. In August 2009, Nelson filed a motion seeking DNA testing that had not been available at his trial 25 years earlier, but Jackson County Circuit Judge David Byrn denied the request…. Snyder gave Nelson’s sister, Sea Dunnell, a copy of a motion filed in a different case in which the judge sustained a DNA request. Nelson used that motion--a public document Dunnell could have gotten if she had known its significance and where to find it--as a guide for a motion he filed Feb. 22, 2012, again seeking DNA testing. That August, Byrn sustained the motion, found Nelson to be indigent and appointed Laura O'Sullivan, legal director of the Midwest Innocence Project, to represent him.
The Kansas City Police Department’s crime lab concluded last month that DNA tests excluded Nelson as the source of evidence recovered from the 1983 rape scene and he was freed June 12….
Five days after Nelson was released, Court Administrator Jeffrey Eisenbeis took Snyder into Byrn’s office near closing time and told her the prosecutor and defense attorney “had a problem” with her involvement in the case. She was suspended without pay, ordered to stay out of the courthouse unless she had permission to be there and scheduled to meet with a human resources investigator June 20. “At first I didn’t know if my pension was going to be intact, and all I could do was curl up in a fetal position and cry,” said Snyder, who had been planning to retire in March. She later found out her pension would be just fine.