Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Janet Burnside has granted a Motion for New Trial in the case of Anthony Lemons of Ohio because prosecutors in the case failed to disclose exculpatory police reports to Lemons’ defense attorneys before trial.
Lemons was convicted of the 1994 drug-related murder of Eric Sims and sentenced to 21 years in prison in 1995. Even after Lemons was paroled last December, he continued to protest his innocence. Yesterday, Judge Burnside gave credence to his claims, finding that withheld evidence in the case undermined the credibility of the state’s key witness against him.
According to the Plain Dealer, police reports never turned over to Lemons included statements from the witness that Lemons was wearing a model of Nike shoes which, police discovered, had not even been manufactured yet at the time of the crime. There were also other discrepancies in the witness’s testimony about Lemons as the alleged shooter.
Lemons went to trial before current Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty’s time (he began at the office in the late 80’s, but left for the bench for 20 years before running for County Prosecutor). The police and prosecutors involved in the case have all retired and the main eyewitness is now deceased – reasons McGinty might be prepared to forgo a second trial. But it is certainly not the first case out of Cuyahoga County which has exposed the unethical conduct of prosecutors in withholding exculpatory evidence.
A 2008 editorial by Regina Brett of the Plain Dealer lists numerous cases in which once-celebrated Cuyahoga prosecutor Carmen Moreno has been found to have suppressed evidence pointing to the innocence of the accused or incredibility of state witnesses. According to Brett, one Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge even said that Marino should have been criminally prosecuted.
More recently, McGinty fired a prosecutor in his office this year after he learned that the prosecutor had posed as somebody else on Facebook in order to try and get two potential state witnesses to testify against a defendant. The Plain Dealer has been advocating for McGinty to launch a full investigation into the practices of his subordinates after the disgraced prosecutor asserted that prosecutors “have long engaged in the practice of using a ruse to obtain the truth” in the office.
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