Society

Court Clerk Sharon Snyder Fired For Helping Free Wrongfully Convicted Man

| by Jonathan Wolfe

After 34 years of work, Sharon Snyder was fired from her position as a Kansas City court clerk.

The reason for her firing?

She told inmate Robert Nelson, a man imprisoned for over 30 years on rape charges, how to get a DNA test performed on the evidence used to convict him. The DNA test Snyder helped issue Nelson cleared him of his rape conviction, and he has since been freed from prison.

Nelson tried twice to have a DNA analysis performed on the evidence against him. The first time he requested a test, the presiding judge denied his request. But Snyder remembered a similar Kansas City case in which a judge granted a DNA test to the convict. Snyder gave Nelson’s sister a copy of that court record, and Nelson’s sister used the document to successfully argue that Nelson should be granted a similar test.

But after Nelson’s exoneration, Snyder was suspended for five days. She was told by her superiors that as a court official, her involvement in the case was inappropriate.

“The document you chose was, in effect, your recommendation for a Motion for DNA testing that would likely be successful in this Division,” Judge David Byrn told Snyder. “But it was clearly improper and a violation of Canon Seven … which warns against the risk of offering an opinion or suggested course of action.”

On June 27, Snyder was fired.

After her firing, the 70-year-old great grandmother was worried about her financial future.

“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,” she said. She later found out that her pension would remain intact.

When asked in an interview with MSNBC if she would do the same thing again if given the chance, Snyder responded with an emphatic “yes.”

"Oh yes, I would do it again," Snyder said. "I am so happy that he got exonerated on this charge, and felt that would happen or he wouldn't have filed that motion to start out with.”

Nelson now feels forever indebted to the woman who lost her career so that he could be free.

“She gave me a lot of hope,” Nelson said. “She and my sister gave me strength to go on and keep trying. I call her my angel. She says she’s not, but she truly is.”

Sources: MSN, Kansas City Star