ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – A 78-year-old man remains imprisoned after a St. Charles County judge ruled he may, in fact, be innocent.
On June 12, Judge Richard K. Zerr ruled that Donald “Doc” Nash met the legal standard of “actual innocence.” It’s a 222-page decision that came after Nash’s family reached out to a Missouri man who was exonerated the same year Nash was locked up.
Josh Kezer walked free from a Jefferson City prison in 2009 after a judge ruled he was innocent of murder. He’d been convicted in the 1992 killing of Angela M. Lawless in Scott County.
After Kezer was exonerated, Nash’s family asked Kezer to look at Nash’s case. In a Zoom call from his Columbia, Missouri home, Kezer described how he found no sign Doc was guilty.
“The reality of innocence conviction cases is that the presumption of innocence no longer exists – it’s the presumption of guilt,” he said.
Nash was convicted of murder in 2009 after a cold case investigation reportedly linked his DNA to the 1982 killing of his former girlfriend, Judy Spencer.
Kezer connected Doc’s family to his lawyers, Steven Snodgrass and Charlie Weiss, who helped free Kezer the same year Nash was convicted.
“They came out of that meeting convinced that this was a case that they needed to take,” Kezer said. “And, like in my case, the more they learned, the more they discovered this man is, in fact, an innocent man.”
A St. Charles County judge agreed, writing a report full of criticisms that there “was no evidence” tying Nash to the crime and that the prosecution relied on “junk science.”
Judge Zerr called the case a “miscarriage of justice,” writing in part, “…it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted Nash. Nash has established Gateway Actual Innocence…”
The Missouri Supreme Court still has to accept the ruling. It could be weeks before Nash learns his fate. Meanwhile, the 78-year-old has learned his prison in Bonne Terre has a COVID-19 outbreak.
“He needs to be free before he contracts COVID-19 because Doc is a very sick man,” Kezer said. “He has lung disease. He has heart problems. He is not a man who can contract COVID-19 and live.”
The judge’s decision is now in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court as the state still has a chance to decide whether it wants to have an entirely new murder trial for Donald “Doc” Nash.
Nash’s attorneys want him bonded out immediately while authorities decide the case.
You can read the judge’s 222-page report below.