Prosecutor seeks to vacate man's conviction in mom's death

A Missouri prosecutor is seeking to vacate the conviction of a man who spent nearly two decades behind bars for the 1998 death of his mother — a crime he and others insist he did not commit

ByThe Associated Press
May 17, 2022, 12:04 PM
In this photo provided by courtesy of the MacArthur Justice Center, Michael Politte smiles after being released on parole on Friday, April 22, 2022, at the Jefferson City Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Mo. He has been behind bars for nearly t
In this photo provided by courtesy of the MacArthur Justice Center, Michael Politte smiles after being released on parole on Friday, April 22, 2022, at the Jefferson City Correctional Center in Jefferson City, Mo. He has been behind bars for nearly two decades after being convicted in the 1998 death of his mother. Politte was 14 when Rita Politte died. He and his supporters have long maintained his innocence and claimed his conviction was based on now-disproven scientific evidence. (Egan O'Keefe/Courtesy MacArthur Justice Center via AP)
The Associated Press

POTOSI, Mo. -- A Missouri prosecutor is seeking to vacate the conviction of a man who spent nearly two decades behind bars for the 1998 death of his mother — a crime he and others insist he did not commit.

Washington County Prosecuting Attorney Joshua Hedgecorth has asked a judge to set aside 38-year-old Michael Politte’s second-degree murder conviction, the Kansas City Star reported. Politte was released from prison last month, two months after he was granted parole.

Politte was just 14 when Rita Politte died in a fire at the family home in the eastern Missouri town of Hopewell. Michael and a friend were also in the home but managed to escape the blaze. Politte’s lawyers said the boys were awakened by smoke and scrambled to escape, before Politte found the burning body of his mother.

Investigators said the fire was started with gasoline and determined that Rita Politte had also suffered blunt force head trauma. The investigation focused on her teenage son as the main suspect, and four years later he was convicted as an adult and sentenced to life in prison.

The only physical evidence investigators had to link Michael Politte to the crime was what they said was the presence of gasoline on the teen's shoes. But that finding was based on now-discredited fire investigation techniques, and the state has conceded there was no gasoline on his shoes.

His attorneys have said investigators ignored other potential suspects, including Politte’s father, who was going through a difficult divorce with Rita Politte when she was killed.

The Midwest Innocence Project and the MacArthur Justice Center, which both work to overturn wrongful convictions, have sought to exonerate Politte.

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