Mo. Man Avoids 13 Years in Prison After 'Clerical Error' - Legally Weird
Legally Weird - The FindLaw Legal Curiosities Blog

Mo. Man Avoids 13 Years in Prison After 'Clerical Error'

A Missouri man who'd been sentenced to 13 years in prison was released by a judge Monday, after a clerical error helped him avoid years of incarceration.

Cornealious "Mike" Anderson, 37, was convicted of armed robbery in 2000 and sentenced -- but he was never told to report to prison because of a mix-up in the court system. Instead, Anderson spent the next 13 years turning his life around, CBS News reports.

After 13 years of living a respectable life, the authorities finally caught up with Anderson and imprisoned him in July. So why did a judge decide to set him free?

Missouri's Big Mistake

Courts make mistakes like any other institution, but in Anderson's case, one clerical error allowed him 13 years of freedom when he was ordered behind bars.

Unlike those who try to contest traffic tickets on the strength of a clerical error or a misspelling, Anderson made no attempt to hide or to take advantage of the state's mistake. According to CBS News, he "paid taxes and traffic tickets," got married, raised three kids, and learned a new trade. The fact that the state didn't catch up with him for 13 years is astonishing.

Anderson's attorney told Southeastern Missouri's KFVS-TV that this kind of error hasn't happened in Missouri in over 100 years.

Judge Considers Time 'Served'

The state of Missouri did eventually correct its mistake in 2013, imprisoning Anderson in July. Since July, a Change.org petition for his release garnered over 35,000 signatures, and Anderson's story was even featured on NPR's "This American Life."

This attention may explain why Anderson was before Associate Circuit Judge Terry Lynn Brown on Monday, who explained that the convicted robber would get credit for the 4,794 days he was free due to the state's error, reports CBS News. For those who aren't Rain Man, that's enough time served to complete Anderson's 13-year prison sentence.

While there are limits to how little time a judge can give a convict in prison, Anderson's is such an extreme case that Judge Brown's ruling seems right. Judges often are called to consider how convicts will reintegrate themselves into society, along with the chance of future crimes, when determining a sentence. Judge Brown told Anderson on Monday that his conduct during his 13 years of freedom was "exemplary," reports CBS News.

Although Anderson's case is so unique, it does give hope that criminal rehabilitation isn't just a myth.

Follow FindLaw for Consumers on Facebook and Twitter (@FindLawConsumer).

Related Resources: