Cleveland Plain Dealer

A prosecutor's win not always justice
by Regina Brett
July 12, 2006

Don't believe me. Believe the judges.

According to appeals court decisions, at least three men could be on death row because former star prosecutor Carmen Marino hid evidence.

Three others had murder convictions set aside, one because of what an appeals court called Marino's "highly improper and highly prejudicial" conduct. The others, because he hid key evidence or lied about secret deals with jailed witnesses.

Marino won seven death sentences in the 1980s. He says he never lied or hid evidence. But Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Daniel Gaul said Marino should be criminally prosecuted for the abuses.

"It's nothing but one deceitful act after another," Gaul said. "To permit anyone to be put to death after being prosecuted by Carmen Marino would be so ethically inappropriate you'd almost be culpable yourself."

How many more Marinos are out there? The guy makes a good argument for ending the death penalty in Ohio. He helped send these three men to death row:

Gregory Lott burglarized the home of an old man in East Cleveland in 1986. The owner died from pneumonia brought on by unexplained burns.

Marino argued that lamp oil was found in the house because Lott brought it to burn the man. But a detective dispatched by Marino reported this: An oil lamp was found in the man's living room.

Joe D'Ambrosio and Thomas Keenan were convicted of the 1988 murder of Anthony Klann.

U.S. District Judge Kathleen O'Malley, who ordered a new trial for D'Ambrosio, said that if Marino had not withheld dozens of pieces of evidence, "no reasonable fact-finder would have found him guilty."

Keenan's first conviction was overturned; the Ohio Supreme Court found an "aggravated example" of prosecutorial misconduct by Marino. His second conviction is under appeal, based in part on O'Malley's findings.

Here are capital cases other prosecutors handled:

Arthur Tyler: Minutes after two bullets struck a 74-year-old produce vendor, Leroy Head confessed. He told two friends, his mother and police. He even signed a confession. Then he struck a deal with prosecutors.

He fingered Arthur Tyler. Tyler is sitting on death row. Head is up for parole next year.

No evidence showed who fired the gun. Head testified that Tyler fired, then went through the dead man's pockets. If so, why would he leave $154? The jury never heard about the money. Years later, Head admitted that he was the shooter.

Anthony Apanovitch was convicted in 1984 of rape and murder on circumstantial evidence, even though a hair that was found under the woman's bound hands didn't match his.

Justice Herbert Brown argued, "there is a substantial possibility" that he might not be guilty. Brown wrote, shouldn't "lack of certainty as to a defendant's guilt . . . be a consideration in deciding whether the death penalty is appropriate?"

John Spirko was convicted of aggravated murder in 1984 with no physical evidence. Documents unearthed after the trial undermined "eyewitness" testimony. A federal judge had said the evidence was too weak to execute somebody.

That is true in all these cases.

How can we execute people when we have prosecutors who hide evidence, make secret deals and hype cases just to win?

A win equals a death. It doesn't equal justice.

Police/Prosecutor Misconduct
Truth in Justice