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Originally published Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 4:28 PM

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Ex-prosecutor accused of misconduct in Missouri

A former Missouri congressman and tough-on-crime prosecutor rebuked by a judge earlier this year for convicting an innocent man is being accused by another inmate of courtroom misconduct.

Associated Press Writer

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. —

A former Missouri congressman and tough-on-crime prosecutor rebuked by a judge earlier this year for convicting an innocent man is being accused by another inmate of courtroom misconduct.

Dale Helmig, convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole in 1996 for murdering his mother, filed a petition with the Missouri Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking DNA tests and a new trial.

The appeal takes aim at former U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, the prosecutor who helped convict Helmig and parlayed his credentials into six House terms and the Republican nomination for governor. Helmig accuses Hulshof of withholding evidence and knowingly presenting false testimony and evidence.

The petition notes that a judge in February ruled that Joshua Kezer, convicted 15 years ago of murdering a college student, was wrongly found guilty in part because Hulshof withheld key evidence from defense attorneys and embellished details in his closing arguments. Kezer was released.

A spokeswoman for Hulshof's employer, the Kansas City law firm of Polsinelli Shughart, said he was not available for comment Wednesday.

Robert Schollmeyer, who assisted Hulshof in the Helmig case as Osage County prosecutor, said that the pair's courtroom conduct was proper.

"It was a solid prosecution, fair and reasonable," said Schollmeyer, now a judge. "I have no qualms about it whatsoever."

As a special state prosecutor, Hulshof handled high-profile murder cases in small Missouri communities that often lacked experienced local prosecutors. He went into private practice after losing the 2008 governor's race to Democrat Jay Nixon, his former boss at the state attorney general's office.

A 2008 Associated Press investigation found that in addition to the Kezer case, prosecutorial errors by Hulshof led to four death sentence reversals, although in those cases subsequent trials led to new convictions of the defendants.

"Hulshof is a repeat offender when it comes to prosecutorial misconduct," said Helmig's defense attorney, Sean O'Brien, a University of Missouri-Kansas City law professor.

In the Helmig case, Hulshof is accused of distorting accounts of a fight between Norma Helmig and her estranged husband. The appeal claims Hulshof tried to elicit testimony from a sheriff, a police officer and a waitress that the fight was between Dale Helmig and his mother, not a couple in the midst of a contentious divorce.

The appeal also claims Hulshof manipulated the testimony of a state trooper who interrogated Dale Helmig. Hulshof allegedly elicited testimony from the trooper that Helmig never denied killing his mother, even though the officer's own written report of the interview contradicted that account.

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The new petition also questions the competency of Chris Jordan, Helmig's trial lawyer. Jordan was later prosecuted for stealing Valium, Oxycodone and other prescription narcotics.

Jordan did not return a message left at his home number.

Schollmeyer called the allegation of drug use by Helmig's defense attorney a "personal attack" that suggests his new defense attorney is "grasping at straws."

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