Joseph Amrine was convicted of murdering Gary Barber on October 18, 1985 in a recreation room at the Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point Missouri. Barber was stabbed in the back with an ice pick at a punching bag. There were two correctional officers and approximately 45 to 50 inmates in the room at the time of the stabbing. Joseph has always maintained his innocense, stating he was involved in a poker game in a different area of the room.
The state relied on three witnesses at trial. Inmates Randy Ferguson and Jerry Poe were the only people who claimed to have seen the killing, and both testified that they saw Joseph stab Barber. A third prisoner, Terry Russell, testified that he had not seen the murder but knew there were bad feelings between Joseph and Barber, and that Joseph threatened Barber a week before the killing, and that Joseph admitted his guilt to him afterward. There was no physical evidence to link Joseph to the crime.
Joseph offered testimony to show he could not be the killer and suggested Terry Russell was. Six prisoners who had been in the recreation room testified that Joseph was involved in a poker game in a different part of the room at the time of the stabbing. Three identified Terry Russell as the person Barber chased before he died. Two correctional officers who had been in the recreation room testified that they first became aware something was wrong when they saw Barber run across the room toward another inmate before he collapsed. Officer John Noble was called by the state and initially testified that he was sure the person Barber had been chasing was Terry Russell, and he told another officer this shortly after the stabbing. The jury found Joseph guilty of first degree murder and sentenced him to death.
Joseph's conviction and sentence was affirmed by the Missouri Supreme Court. Joseph moved for post-conviction relief. At the state court hearing, Randy Ferguson and Terry Russell recanted their trial testimony. Ferguson now testified that he had actually been in the bathroom at the time of the stabbing and did not witness it. He stated he was pressured by Missouri officials to falsely testify at trial that Joseph stabbed Barber. Terry Russell also testified that he had been pressured into giving false testimony. He stated that his trial testimony was false and that Brooks and a deputy sheriff from Cole County had threatened he would be charged with the murder if he did not give the desired testimony.
Joseph's case is presently awaiting an evidentiary hearing in the district court to determine if Joseph's evidence meets the Schlup standard entitling him to consideration of his barred constitutional claims.