Unless Osage County Prosecutor Amanda Grellner can win a new conviction at a new trial, Dale Helmig is a free man.
"Dale Helmig established a fundamental miscarriage of justice that justifies habeas corpus relief," wrote Cynthia L. Martin, Writ Division presiding judge of the appeals court's Western District in Kansas City.
Helmig, now 54, was sentenced to life in prison without parole after a Gasconade County jury convicted him in March 1996 of first-degree murder for the July 1993 killing of his mother, Norma Helmig, 55.
Her body was found Aug. 1, 1993, floating in the flood-swollen Osage River, near Mari-Osa-Delta in Osage County near the Maries River's mouth.
Both Grellner and Nanci Gonder, spokeswoman for Attorney General Chris Koster, told the News Tribune on Tuesday they were studying the 61-page appeals court opinion, and had no immediate comment about it.
In his motion for a "writ of habeas corpus" - a court order forcing the state to release him from state Corrections Department custody - Helmig's lawyer raised nine issues he claimed deprived Helmig of a fair trial.
A tenth claim was made in an amended petition filed before DeKalb County Circuit Judge Warren McElwain heard arguments in the case last July.
Last November, McElwain ordered Helmig freed, finding that Helmig "was a victim of a fundamental miscarriage of justice warranting the vacation of (his) conviction."
Instead, Koster appealed to the Kansas City court, asking the appeals court to review McElwain's trial procedures and ruling for "irregularities," but the court ruled in favor of Helmig's freedom.