Kris Helton was convicted in 1992 for the murder of twenty-two month old Marshall Gunderson. At the time of Marshall’s death, Kris was living with Marshall’s mother, Marcella Gunderson and her three sons, Michael, age four, Matthew, age six, and Marshall.
However gastric contents evidence, and the observations of a doctor who examined Marshall after he was rushed to hospital, suggest that Marcella lied about what took place, and Marshall died much earlier than she claimed.
The Third District Court of Appeal in Miami, Florida unanimously reversed Kris’ wrongful conviction for first-degree murder — with directions to discharge him outright — because the purely circumstantial evidence adduced at trial didn’t preclude the reasonable possibility that the crime wasn’t committed the crime “hours earlier” than alleged by the prosecution, when Kris was not at home.
Later, though, Judge Gerald Cope and Judge Alan Schwartz granted a motion for rehearing filed by the State of Florida, withdrew the three-judge panel’s original, unanimous opinion; and issued a split opinion affirming Kris’ conviction based upon an entirely new analysis of the circumstantial evidence.