Jamie Snow returns to court in fight for new trial in '91 murder

Friday, August 15, 2008 9:33 PM CDT

By Edith Brady-Lunny

 BLOOMINGTON -- Jamie Snow is looking for a second chance to convince a jury that he didn’t kill an 18-year-old Bloomington gas station clerk in 1991. In an exclusive interview with The Pantagraph, Snow said he deserves a new trial — without much of the evidence used against him when he was convicted almost 10 years after the murder of William Little.

Snow is serving a life sentence for the slaying of Little, an attendant at a Clark service station that once stood at Linden and Empire streets.

“I didn’t commit the crime. My hope is that sooner rather than later, the truth will come out and I’ll be vindicated. I want justice not just for myself, for my family but for Bill Little,” Snow said in a phone call from the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet.
Jamie Snow
Jamie Snow, with former Off. Jeff Pelo's letter in the background.

Little was killed March 31, 1991, during a robbery that netted less than $100. Susan Claycomb, who was accused of driving the getaway car, was acquitted in a 2000 jury trial; Snow’s trial was a year later. The pair had been arrested in 1999, Snow in Ohio and Claycomb in Tennessee.

Legal assistance

Snow, now 43, said he is pleased to have assistance from lawyers with The Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School.

“In the last eight years, I have written thousands and thousands and thousands of letters to attorneys, law schools all over the United States. To have these people take a chance on me and my case is a great feeling,” said Snow.

Before the Chicago legal team agreed in April to take Snow’s case, he spent four years working on a petition for post-conviction relief.

“In May 2004, I filed my original petition and I never really stopped trying to make it better. It probably took a couple of years to put it together,” Snow said of the 170 pages he wrote with the help of the prison’s law library.

Snow is due in McLean County Circuit Court Monday with attorney Tara Thompson for a status hearing to determine how the case will move forward.

Eyewitness and informants

The nine years between the murder and Snow’s arrest gave authorities an advantage, Snow said.

“It gave the state the ability to put together an unreliable case, in my opinion. Memories tended to change in favor of the state’s theory,” Snow told The Pantagraph.

Danny Martinez was at the service station to put air in a tire when the robbery unfolded. Snow contends Martinez caved in to pressure from police to identify Snow as the murderer at the 2001 trial.

“I think he eventually wore down under the pressure,” said Snow.

Snow hopes more reliable testimony will come from former police officer Jeff Pelo, who has offered to assist Snow with his case. Pelo, who was sentenced earlier this week to 440 years for rape and stalking cases, responded to the robbery call in 1991.

At Snow’s trial, Pelo testified he saw Martinez in the parking lot. He now disputes the assertion that Martinez came face to face with Snow as he backed out of the gas station.

Pelo “was there, he was at the scene. If you believe what he said in his tape-recorded interview, you have to believe that the scenario the eyewitness testified to could not have happened that way,” said Snow.

A tape-recorded interview of Pelo’s version of events, which contradicted his trial testimony, was not played during the trial, said Snow.

The use of jailhouse informants as witnesses against Snow also should be barred in a second trial, Snow argues.

“They brought guys in to testify that I’d never laid eyes on before in my life,” said Snow.

State’s position

Assistant State’s Attorney Bill Workman has been assigned to handle Snow’s request for a new trial. He said Snow’s petition is a repeat of the claims he made in previous appeals.

On the issue of informants, the prosecutor stands by the initial opinion that the men were telling the truth.

“I believe the state’s attorney’s office found them to be credible and relied upon their statements,” he said.

The mistaken identity argument and claims that Snow’s previous lawyers were ineffective also have been heard, said Workman.

Workman said the state will not oppose a request by The Exoneration Project for additional time to file an amended appeal.


Timeline of the Case
  • March 31, 1991: William Little, 18, is killed during the robbery of a Bloomington gas station.
  • Sept. 1999: Jamie Snow is arrested in Ohio and Susan Claycomb in Tennessee in connection with Little’s death.
  • Aug. 30, 2000: A McLean County jury acquits Claycomb of murder.
  • Jan. 16, 2001: Snow is convicted of Little’s murder.
  • May 10, 2001: Snow is sentenced to life in prison.
  • Aug. 20, 2004: The 4th District Appellate Court denies Snow’s appeal.
  • November 2007: Incarcerated former police officer Jeff Pelo writes a letter to Snow, offering his help with Snow’s defense.
  • Jan. 9, 2008: Snow files an amended petition for post-conviction relief in McLean County Circuit Court. Pelo’s letter is filed the same day.
  • April 2008: The Exoneration Project agrees to assist with Snow’s case.

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