Cleveland.com: Men imprisoned since 2006 get new trial after Cleveland police officers contradict fellow officers’ testimony
One of the men is represented by UC's Ohio Innocence Project
An appeals court granted a new trial for two men who spent the last 14 years in prison for the shooting of two people and the attempted shooting of a Cleveland police officer. One of the men, Michael Sutton, was represented by UC's Ohio Innocence Project.
Sutton and Kenny Phillips, who were 17 years old at the time of the shootings, were convicted by a jury of multiple charges, including attempted murder of a police officer. A judge sentenced Phillips to 61 years in prison, and Sutton, who was the driver, to more than 40 years in prison.
Cleveland.com reported prosecutors had no physical evidence tying Phillips or Sutton to the crime, meaning the entire case rested on the testimony of officers Daniel Lentz and Michael Keane, who said they saw the drive-by shooter fire from a car that included Phillips and Sutton.
Jurors never heard from officers John Lundy and Gregory Jones, who said in affidavits filed in recent years as part of the men’s appeals that they too were at the shooting scene and said Lentz and Keane were not where they said they were when the initial shots were fired. Lundy and Jones also said they never heard any shots fired as Lentz and Keane chased down the fleeing men.
The 8th District ruled that the state knew about Lundy’s and Jones’ conflicting testimony and failed to disclose it, therefore violating the defendants’ rights to a fair trial.
In response to the court's ruling, UC's Ohio Innocence Project issued a statement that read, in part: "Today, the Eighth District ruled that the State of Ohio’s failure to disclose the exculpatory information violated Kenny’s and Michael’s right to a fair trial. In doing so, the court recognized the disproportionate rate at which African-Americans are wrongfully convicted and the possibility that undue weight had been given to the law enforcement testimony that led to the original convictions."
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