COLUMBIA, Mo. - A prisoner whose case has attracted the attention of student documentary filmmakers at Illinois State University must remain behind bars for now, an appeals court ruled Tuesday.
The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis sided with state prosecutors, ruling that Dale Helmig will remain behind bars pending an appeal by the state of a federal magistrate's decision to throw out his murder conviction.
The emergency ruling supersedes a lower courtís decision Thursday to release Helmig pending the stateís appeal.
Helmig, 49, has been imprisoned nearly a decade for the 1993 death of his mother, Norma, whose body was found tied to a concrete block in the Osage River near her home. He was sentenced to life without parole.
A federal magistrate judge threw out that conviction on Sept. 26, agreeing with a defense attorneyís contention that a Missouri highway map provided to jurors during their deliberations - but not otherwise introduced as evidence during trial - could have influenced their guilty verdict.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David Noce also ruled last week that Helmig could be released from the Cameron Correctional Center on $100,000 bond while the stateís appeal of his overturned conviction was considered.
Family members, including younger brother Rich Helmig, raised the $10,000 needed to guarantee a bail bondsman and were prepared to greet Dale Helmig outside the prison gates as early as Monday afternoon.
But Monday, Attorney General Jay Nixonís office asked a higher federal court to keep Helmig behind bars, calling him a violent flight risk who had sought an armed confrontation with the Osage County sheriff before his arrest.
After the appeals court ruling, Noce canceled a hearing set for Wednesday, when terms of Helmigís release were to be determined.
A Nixon spokesman declined to comment Tuesday evening. Defense attorney Sean O'Brien called the sudden decision a temporary setback.
"Of course Dale is disappointed. He was fully expecting to go to court on Wednesday and go home with his brother," O'Brien said.
He said he expects the full appeals court to consider the temporary order within the next few weeks. The emergency order issued Tuesday came from a single, unidentified judge on the three-judge panel, he said.
Helmig's case has drawn attention from legal activists and student documentary filmmakers at Illinois State University. A documentary on the case is being produced by an Illinois State professor who helped free Missouri death row inmate Joseph Amrine with a similar film he made while a graduate student at the University of Missouri-Columbia.