James Chambers is in imminent danger of being executed. In May of 1982, James and his family spent Memorial Day camping on the Meremac River. James decided to try to get a boat to go out on the river fishing. James along with Donny Chapman proceeded to the Country Club Lounge to attempt to get a boat from the Turners, who were friends of Chapman. The Turner family had left the bar before James and Chapman arrived. They found the Turners at their home but the Turners boat was dry docked. The Turners suggested a neighbor had a boat he might be able to use.
James and Jackie Turner returned to the Country Club Lounge to find the neighbor and see if they could get the boat. James walked up to Jerry Oestricker and old acquaintance and asked if Oestricker intended to buy him a drink. Oestricker responded negatively and an argument erupted between James and Oestricker. The owner of the bar told the two men to take their problem outside. After a brief exchange Oestricker hit James and knocked him down and stabbed him with a pair of pliers. James shot Oestricker from the ground as Oestricker was moving toward him.
The prosecution's case was that this was a premeditate attack by James to avenge an altercation between Jackie Turner and Oestricker earlier in the day. The jury convicted James of first degree murder and returned a sentence of death. After the conviction and sentence the Missouri Supreme Court reversed the conviction because the trial court failed to give a self-defense instruction. The conviction was followed by a retrial which was reversed by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals because of ineffective assistance of trial counsel. In James' third trial he was again convicted and sentenced to death. The Missouri Supreme Court, the District Court, the Eighth Circuit and United States Supreme Court have all denied relief from James third trial.
There is substantial evidence showing James Chambers is innocent of first degree murder. There was a lack of pre-meditation on James part. James did not have the opportunity to advance effectively his version of the events. The true reason for James traveling to the lounge that night was to obtain a boat for fishing. There was also no grudge between Oestricker and Jackie Turner.
The theory of defense was not properly presented to the trial court. Oestricker attacked James with a pair of needle nose pliers which caused James to use his gun. Oestricker was much larger and heaver than James. Oestricker was also know to have a bad temper and reputation for violence. James was aware of this propensity having lived near Oestricker prior to the incident.
James appeals have run their course. His only hope lies in the hands of Governor Mel Carnahan.