Wrongly Convicted Database Record


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Shannon Kay Gonser



Child/Minor Sex Abuse (incl. molestation)


"20 years to life imprisonment, $7,845 restitution & $347.50 in costs"

Years Imprisoned:


Year Crime:


Year Convicted:


Year Cleared:


U.S. State or Country of Crime:


County or Region of Crime:


City of Crime:


Judicially Exonerated

Summary of Case:

"Shannon Kay Gonser (now known as Shannon Kay Nelson, aka Shannon Nelson ) was wrongly convicted in 2006 of five charges related to the sexual assault and physical abuse of her four children in Arapahoe County, Colorado. The jury acquitted Gonser of 35 charges, but convicted her of five charges. Shannon Gonser was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison, and payment of $7,845 restitution and $347.50 in costs. Gonser appealed. On April 9, 2009 the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed Gonser's conviction based on the the trial judge allowing the prosecution's improper use of an unendorsed expert witness. During Gonser's retrial her defense was that her oldest son had been accused of sexual abuse against a neighbor's daughter at the time he made the accusations against his mother, who he wasn't living with, and who was in the midst of divorcing her children's father. Gonser argued that her oldest son coached her younger children to falsely accuse her. Gonser was acquitted on July 28, 2010 after her retrial. After Gonser's release she married and became known as Shannon Nelson. She filed a motion with the district court for reimbursement of the approximately $2,000 she had paid as part of her sentence, which included money taken from her inmate account. The State of Colorado opposed the motion, and the judge denied it on the basis it lacked the authority to order such a refund. Nelson appealed. On April 25, 2013 Colorado Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the district court judge's ruling, and remanded for consideration of the merits of Nelson's motion for a refund. The State appealed. On December 21, 2015 the Colorado Supreme Court en banc reversed the appeals court's ruling by stating: "Because none of the statutes governing the fines, fees, and restitution empowered the trial court to issue a refund, it could not do so. Exonerated defendants may seek a refund of costs, fees, and restitution, but only through a separate civil proceeding, which Nelson did not pursue." Nelson submitted a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court, which accepted her case, combining it with a similar Colorado case filed by Louis Madden (USSC No 15-1256). On January 9, 2017 the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments, and seemed sympathetic with the arguments of Madden and Nelson."

Conviction Caused By:

Trial judge permitted testimony by an unendorsed prosecution expert witness.

Innocence Proved By:

"Shannon Gonser aka Shannon Nelson was acquitted in July 28, 2010 after her retrial."

Defendant Aided By:

Compensation Awarded:

Was Perpetrator Identified?

Age When Imprisoned:

Age When Released:




Information Source 1:

"People v. Nelson, 362 P. 3d 1070 (Colo. Supreme Court 12-21-2015) (Affirming district court's ruling that Nelson doesn't have right to automatic refund of costs paid related to her sentence for conviction that she was acquitted of on retrial.)"

Information Location 1:


Information Source 2:

"People v. Nelson, No. 11CA1206 (Colo. Court of Appeals, 6th Div. 4-25-2013) (Reversing district court's ruling that Nelson doesn't have right to automatic refund of costs paid related to her sentence for conviction that she was acquitted of on retrial.)"

Information Location 2:


Information Source 3:

"People v. Gonser, Colo. App. No. 06CA1023, Apr. 9, 2009 (unpublished opinion) (Reversing conviction based on the improper use of an unendorsed expert witness.)"

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Information Source 4:

"U.S. high court says Colorado must refund exonerated defendants, By Andrew Chung, Reuters, April 19, 2017"

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Information Source 5:

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Innocents Database Created and Maintained by Hans Sherrer innocents@forejustice.org

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