A panel of judges has denied convicted murderer Jamie Snow’s challenge of a lower court’s ruling that rejected his bid for a new trial in a 1991 Bloomington homicide.
Snow, 45, claimed that a lower court incorrectly dismissed his post-conviction petition and wrongly denied his motion for ballistics testing. Snow has maintained his innocence since being convicted in January 2001 of killing Bloomington gas station attendant Billy Little in 1991.
The Fourth District Appellate Court issued its 28-page ruling Wednesday affirming the lower court’s judgment and denying Snow’s appeal.
Snow’s attorney, Tara Thompson with the Exoneration Project, said Thursday that his defense is plotting its next legal move. They could ask the Illinois Supreme Court to review his case, or possibly petition the federal courts, she said.
Thompson said she was still reviewing the ruling and could not speak to specific areas where the defense feels the appellate court erred.
“Most people who are wrongfully convicted spend years proving their innocence, so this isn’t the end of the road. We’re gonna continue to do what we need to do to help him have his day in court,” Thompson said. “I’m just disappointed in general because obviously we made arguments that we believe are valid, and I believe Jamie’s case is a strong one.”
During a hearing last month in front of the Fourth District Appellate Court, Snow attorney Tara Thompson with the Exoneration Project told the judges that the lower court was mistaken when it said Snow’s appeal contained no new evidence and just rehashed evidence available during trial. She said affidavits from several witnesses who have recanted or changed their testimony were, in fact, new evidence that would have changed the outcome of the trial.
In their ruling, three appellate judges disagreed. They said “most of the defendant’s supporting evidence would have been available at defendant’s trial or direct appeal with the exercise of due diligence.” They said the trial court properly dismissed Pelo’s actual-innocence claim.
A central point in Snow’s innocence claim is that state witness Danny Martinez did not, as he claimed he did, see Snow exiting the Clark gas station at Empire and Linden streets in Bloomington after the Easter shooting.
Then-Bloomington police officer Jeff Pelo – now a convicted rapist – responded to the scene that night, and in an affidavit says he didn’t see Martinez encounter Snow as Martinez claims he did. Snow’s attorneys claim that prosecutors instructed Pelo not to disclose that he was on the scene by the time Martinez allegedly saw Snow coming out of the station.
The appellate judges noted that Pelo expected defense counsel to bring out the fact that he did not see anyone exit the gas station during trial.
“Clearly, Pelo’s testimony about not seeing anyone leave the gas station was available at trial,” the opinion reads. “Accordingly, it is not newly discovered evidence.”
Defense attorneys and ballistics
Snow also claims that his lawyers during the trial were inadequate and did not, for example, understand who was on the defense witness list. One of his then-attorneys, Frank Picl, later went to prison for theft and financial exploitation and had a documented drinking problem.
A trial court ruled in April 2001 that Snow’s defense was adequate. The appellate judges on Wednesday ruled that because the courts have already addressed that issue, Snow’s 12 reasons why he had a poor defense in his post-conviction motion can’t be raised again.
The Fourth District Appellate Court also says the trial court ruled correctly in denying Snow’s bid for ballistics testing to help prove his innocence. The judges note that no gun was recovered in the Little shooting.
“Any new evidence would not disprove a gun used by (Snow) to shoot Little was not the murder weapon,” the judges wrote. “Thus, any test result would not significantly advance (Snow’s) claim of actual innocence.”
The next step for Snow is not immediately clear. Snow’s attorneys and the State’s Attorneys Appellate Prosecutor’s office could not immediately be reached for comment late Wednesday.
Snow remains at a Joliet prison, where he is serving a life sentence.