40-Year Old Murder Trial Revisited, Greathouse Resentenced to 50 Years

Last week on October 3, 2018, Robin Greathouse’s 1979 capital murder charge was amended to 2nd degree murder and he received a prison sentence of 50 years. 

Robin Greathouse was arrested September 6, 1978 for killing his uncle Clayton Dawson in western Douglas County.  The case was transferred to Ozark County where a trial was held from December 10-15, 1979.  Greathouse was found guilty of capital murder, and sentenced to the Department of Corrections where he was not eligible for parole until he had served 50 years.  At the time of the killing, Greathouse was 17 years and three days old. 

In 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued Miller v Alabama, which said a juvenile offender cannot be given the harshest punishment under the law unless the sentencing scheme takes into account the person’s youth. The Missouri Supreme Court subsequently issued two opinions on the procedure for re-sentencing of juvenile offenders.  Those cases are State v Hart and State ex. rel. Carr v Wallace.  The Missouri Supreme Court has held that a juvenile may get the maximum sentence allowed under the law but first the sentencer must be given a scheme to account for the offender’s youth.  The law in 1979 required any person convicted for capital murder be sentenced to the Department of Corrections for life and no parole until they had served 50 years.  No consideration was given for Greathouse’s youth when he was sentenced. 

“This case was very difficult because the murder occurred 40 years ago. The primary law enforcement officers are unavailable to testify. In fact, the Missouri Statute he was convicted of for capital murder crime does not even exist in Missouri any longer.  There is also no family to speak on behalf of Clayton Dawson.  The only surviving relative my office found was his 81-year-old niece who lives in Kansas City.  She believed he had served his time and should be free,” says Chris Wade, Douglas County Prosecutor.  “I had a juror from the 1979 trial contact me.  He informed me that the jury deadlocked at 11-1 for the death penalty.  The one vote against death was an alternate who was promoted when a regular juror had to be removed during the trial.  so, Mr. Greathouse got very lucky at this sentencing in 1979 or he would have received the death penalty. He has also benefited from the recent Supreme Court rulings.  I hope he capitalizes on this second chance and uses it in a positive way.” 

The Department of Corrections will determine when Greathouse is eligible for parole.  He has been incarcerated for 40 years and one month.  If he is paroled, it is anticipated that he will live in a men’s shelter in either Kansas City or St. Louis where he will be helped with employment and taught basic life skills.