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Wrongfully Convicted Man Represented by Langdon & Emison Released After 20 Years

Michael Politte was 14 years old when he witnessed his mother burning to death on the floor of their trailer. At 18, Michael was wrongly convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

On April 22, 2022, Michael was finally released from Jefferson City Correctional Center, paroled after nearly two decades behind bars. He was greeted by family and friends and his legal team from Langdon & Emison. Attorneys at Langdon & Emison were honored to provide pro bono representation in partnership with the Midwest Innocence Project and MacArthur Justice Center. Our legal team will continue representing Michael for his full exoneration.

michael politte released
Michael Politte (third from left) poses with his legal team on the day of his release.

“I never thought this day would come,” Michael said the day of his release. “I don’t see any barbed wire or any wire. It’s all open. It smells different, looks different. It’s amazing.”

Michael told reporters that he just wants to live, that he wants to get a job and work. He also wants justice for his mother, whom he said “is always in my thoughts, always in my mind.”

Background of the Michael Politte Case (Written by Jim Salter, Associated Press)

Rita Politte died in a fire at the family home in the eastern Missouri town of Hopewell in 1998. Michael, 14 at the time, and a friend were also in the home but managed to escape the blaze. 

Investigators said the fire was started with gasoline and determined that Rita Politte had also suffered blunt force head trauma. The investigation focused on her teenage son as the main suspect and four years later, he was convicted as an adult of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. 

A petition by Politte’s attorneys last year faulted investigators who determined that the teen had gasoline on his shoes, which was the only physical evidence they said linked him to the crime. The findings were based on now-discredited fire investigation techniques, and the state has conceded that Politte did not have gas on his shoes, the attorneys said.

The petition said investigators ignored other potential suspects, including Politte’s father, who was going through a difficult divorce with Rita Politte at the time of her killing.

Langdon & Emison is thrilled that Michael has finally received justice, and we fully support his exoneration. Click here to read our earlier blog about Michael’s wrongful conviction case, and click here to read the Associated Press story.