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COVID-19 cases prompt motion for Nash’s release

A spike in COVID-19 cases in a Bonne Terre prison has prompted the attorneys of Donald “Doc” Nash to seek his immediate release from prison as he awaits a ruling from the Missouri Supreme Court in his post-conviction case.

On June 23, Nash’s attorneys filed an emergency motion for immediate conditional release, or alternately, to accelerate procedural deadlines in his case.

The filing follows a June 12 report by a special master, retired St. Charles County Circuit Judge Richard Zerr, in which Zerr recommended the Supreme Court throw out Nash’s decades-old murder conviction. In his report, Zerr wrote “it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror would have convicted” Nash of killing his girlfriend.

Zerr found that Nash successfully provided a gateway claim of actual innocence and established multiple violations of his constitutional rights leading to his wrongful conviction for capital murder. His attorney, Charles A. Weiss of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, said in the emergency motion Nash “is in grave danger of never setting foot outside prison walls.”

Nash is being held at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Correctional Center in Bonne Terre. Local health department officials announced a spike in cases in the facility June 19, Weiss said.

He noted in the motion that Nash, who will turn 78 next month, has COPD and a heart condition.

On June 24, the court ordered the state to file its response by end-of-day June 29. As of press time, the state has not responded. A spokesman for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office could not be reached for comment.

The case is State ex rel. Nash v. Payne, SC97903.

RELATED: Special master shreds ‘weak’ murder conviction

Coronavirus crisis

This item is part of Missouri Lawyers Media's free coverage of how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the legal community.

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