Cornealious "Mike" Anderson: An Epilogue to the RFT Story Featured On This American Life

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Courtesy LaQonna Anderson

Back in September, Riverfront Times published a feature story titled "The (Extremely) Long (and Sometimes Forgetful) Arm of the Law." It told the story of Cornealious Michael Anderson, or Mike, as he's known to friends and family. Anderson was convicted in 2000 of armed robbery and sentenced to thirteen years in prison. He appealed several times, and during that process he posted bond and went home. When his appeals ultimately failed, law enforcement should have re-arrested him and taken him to prison to serve his sentence. But for reasons that are still unclear, that didn't happen. Anderson remained free.

In that time he didn't change his name, move away or in any other way evade capture -- there was simply no one looking for him. Instead he got married, became a father of four, a homeowner and a master carpenter living in a home he built himself in Webster Groves.

A version of the story airs this weekend on the national radio show This American Life. What follows is an epilogue of sorts ahead of the broadcast: Everything we've learned about Anderson's case since our story was published in September, including what became of the victim of the 1999 robbery.

If you missed the feature, click here to read it and catch up on the details. When the story left off, Anderson was at Fulton Reception and Diagnostic, a penitentiary about two hours west of St. Louis. The facility is like a way station for prisoners entering the Missouri correctional system -- after an intake process that can take several weeks or months, inmates are assigned a permanent prison "home." When we last spoke to Anderson, he'd been at Fulton about two months. He didn't have an attorney, nor was it certain whether he had any legal recourse.

Since then Anderson's family hired Patrick Michael Megaro, a Florida-based attorney who specializes in post-conviction appeals.

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Jessica Lussenhop
Fulton Reception and Diagnostic Center in Fulton, Missouri.

"It's still kind of unclear to me how he fell through the cracks," says Megaro. "I don't think any of it is attributable to him at all. I think what happened is there was a clerical error, and the Missouri Department of Corrections figured they had a prisoner in their custody. Nobody double-checked, and nobody paid attention to the case after he'd gone through all of his appeals."

In November the Missouri Department of Corrections moved Anderson to a permanent prison -- Southeast Correctional Center, about two and a half hours south of St. Louis. On December 30, 2013, Megaro filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the warden of Southeast Correctional, challenging the state of Missouri's right to hold Anderson. The petition makes two arguments -- first, that making Anderson serve his sentence thirteen years after the fact is a violation of due process, and second, taking him away from the productive life he was able to make for himself in those ensuing years constitutes cruel and unusual punishment:

Petitioner was left alone by the State of Missouri for 13 years and led to believe that the State had given up on execution of the judgment. To require this man to now begin serving a sentence in 2013 that should have been completed in 2013 is in essence to double his sentence. However, it was particularly cruel and unusual to allow him to believe that the State had given him reprieve to one day, out of the blue, knock down his door and take his entire life away 13 years after the fact...To call this situation unusual is an understatement. The very nature of doubling a man's sentence because of the State's failure to act and gross negligence, to give this man hope because of the State's utter and complete failure to act, defines cruelty. As a result, this Court should grant this petition.

Because the petition is filed against the warden of the prison, the Missouri Department of Corrections is represented by Attorney General Chris Koster. A spokeswoman for Koster declined to comment on pending litigation, and right now the petition is before a judge in Mississippi County. There are no hearings currently scheduled.

If the judge denies Anderson's petition, Megaro says he plans to appeal.

"This is not going to be a cakewalk by any stretch of the imagination. We're going to be creating new law in the state of Missouri," says Megaro. "This is going to be a precedent-setting case. Now, I doubt that this scenario is bound to repeat itself...as far as I can tell this has never been reported in the state in Missouri and not reported much throughout the country -- the history of the country."

Next, find out how the victim of the original robbery felt when he learned that Anderson never served his sentence. And click all the way through to view a complete copy of Anderson's petition for a write of habeas corpus.



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16 comments
mktrrzs9
mktrrzs9

FAIR, JUSTICE. Really. Say these words to a judge, a lawyer, a probation/parole officer, prosecuting attorney. They will laugh at that. It is about the LAWWW. The law is about one thing, and has nothing to do with fair. The law is about FACTS, and $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. The court system is about winning. Defense, and the prosecution. Do we stand in front of a court house, and see a building where justice is served? It's a business to make money, every time the state sends someone to prison, the federal government pays the state.In the 70's we had hundreds of prisons in the US. Now we have thousands.Since DNA, people in prison have been found they are in fact, innocent. The system is not perfect.Those released through DNA, get thousands, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ your tax dollars.People die every day due to DWI. This country refuses to do anything about it. Censors can be put in every vehicle in this country, the technology is cheap. If you have had more than 3 beers, your car won't start.DWI is multiply billion dollar money maker for the courts. Limit every establishment to 2 alcohol drinks per person. No they won't do that either. That would mean Billions of $$$$$$$$$, in lost revenue taxes. This would be call killing the cash cow.  None of this is fair, but the fact is he was convicted he needs to serve his time.  The chances of you or I dying of a drunk driver is high.

mktrrzs9
mktrrzs9

Are you people kidding? This man was convicted, by his peers.He needs to serve his time. Yes he fell through the cracks. If he would have told them back then. He would be done, but he did not. Why? Could it be maybe he was just hoping to get away with it? Could it be maybe he is dishonest? So all those in prison right now serving their time are thinking wow I wish they would have forgot about me.We have a legal system in place for a reason. We need to uphold it, and abide by, other wise we are a failure to our own society.

threeball
threeball

This is ridiculous,a young stupid kid commits a crime,is convicted and sentenced,waits for the incarceration to begin,dreading his fate for all these years should be punishment enough,even his victim agrees.While waiting for the MDC to come get him,he becomes an upright citizen and taxpayer,plus a coach helping kids,how in hell can Missouri justify NOW incarcerating a totally changed {no resembleance of that stupid kid} citizen.

nanaz
nanaz

Is there anyway to help support Mike and his family and to get this man who has turned his life around back home with his wife and kids?


mishagain
mishagain

Why hasn't this story gained national media attention? Even the victim recognizes the injustice of it all. Come on media, stop arguing about nothing and do something good for a change! I agree with Nanaz, how can we help his family until his release?

nanaz
nanaz

Is there anyway to help support Mike and his family and help get this man who has turned his life around back home with his wife and kids?

dclinda
dclinda

seems to me that incarcerating Mike would be a great miscarriage of justice.  If restitution to the justice system still needs to be paid, why not resentence to community service.  He certainly has the skills to help.

socialJustice
socialJustice

Putting Mike in prison 13 years later when he is now a husband, a father, and contributing to the society significantly increased the punishment. The mistake is made by the government, not by Mike, so why should he be punished? The court should take the several months Mike has served as the fair punishment and let him go home ASAP.

My Supernova
My Supernova

Happy Valentine's Day! - The My Supernova Team

kuliaikanuu
kuliaikanuu

@mktrrzs9  What good will it honestly do for him to serve all that time? This guy is an upstanding citizen. A business owner who is paying taxes and raising children. He's a benefit to his community. His community is suffering directly as long as he is sitting in prison. Seriously, please explain the public benefit of him being in prison right now. And by the way "but it's not FAIR!!" is not a public benefit. 

lidlebitz
lidlebitz

Just because the state of Missouri screwed up doesn't mean the man is dishonest! Obviously, he stayed out of trouble and created a decent life for himself in those 13 years or the state would have a figured out THEIR mistake sooner.

mktrrzs9
mktrrzs9

@nanaz support him. He needs to serve his time, like everyone else in prison. What are we going to let everybody go now, everyone we feel sorry for. If he was an honest person, he would have contacted the court house, but he did not. He would have been out by now. It's state prison. They gave him 13,. he only does half of that.

mktrrzs9
mktrrzs9

@lidlebitz  

My point is this, the law is the law. I don't care who you are. All those in prison serving their time, are paying their debt to society. He got 13 free years to start a family. He should be grateful for that, serve his time, be a man. He can probably get the
DA to settle for 2.,, or 3 yrs. Stop crying, is so lucky.

nontracau
nontracau

@mktrrzs9 @nanazBut he did contact the courthouse. The story says that he filed a post-conviction appeal that stated that he was not presently incarcerated. So now the government is going to put his man in jail at the cost of $20,000 per year at the taxpayers expense.  In addition, what if his wife cannot support the family on her salary.  What if she has to collect food stamps and other social services also at the taxpayers expense (although through no fault of her own).  If he has to serve some time I think it should be reduced as he has obviously rehabilitated himself, and I think the state should make arrangements so that he could serve his time on the week-ends, since he has shown he is not a flight risk. That way the state gets its pound of flesh and he can continue to support his family keeping everyone out of the taxpayer's pocket.

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