The Enquirer: Prosecutor’s office misled judge to imprison inmate freed by OIP

Judge says prosecutor's office skirted the "rule of law" to keep a freed man behind bars

New details are emerging in the case of a man who continued to remain imprisoned earlier this year even after the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) at the University of Cincinnati helped secure his release. The Cincinnati Enquirer spotlights what one judge has called Christopher Smith’s “unconstitutional conviction,” resulting from allegations that the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office misled one judge and circumvented another, in this recent story.

Smith served 12 years in prison for armed robbery in which DNA evidence implicated another suspect. With the assistance of the OIP, a federal judge overturned his 2008 conviction and issued an order on April 9 calling for his immediate release. Yet, according to The Enquirer, citing Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman, a prosecutor misled a judge to secure an order to keep Smith in custody.

After Smith was ordered released, a local prosecutor called Ruehlman to try and stop it, the judge said. Ruehlman declined the request, but the prosecutor sought out a different Common Pleas Court judge, telling her that Ruehlman had approved her signing the order to further detain Smith, according to The Enquirer.

Smith was released on April 14 after U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Black, the federal judge who first issued the unconditional release for Smith, issued an additional order for Smith’s release. In his second order, Black used capital letters to make clear Smith should have been released with his first order: "The Court hereby ADVISES that anyone attempting to retain custody of ... Christopher Smith is in violation of two court orders," he wrote in the second order.

"There is no question that the federal court had jurisdiction to order Chris released from state custody outright with no conditions or qualifications," said Michelle Berry Godsey, a 2006 UC College of Law alumnus and former OIP participant who represented Smith both at his original trial in Hamilton County 12 years ago and in his appeal. "There’s no ambiguity or wiggle room on this issue."

Read the full story here.


Featured image at top: Christopher Smith poses at Berry International Friendship Park on June 10, 2020. Sam Greene/The Enquirer

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