3 convicted killers fighting to clear names win another legal battle

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CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio -- The FOX 8 I TEAM has obtained a Cuyahoga County Appeals Court ruling that says 3 men who did 19 years for murder should get a new trial. Eugene Johnson, Laurese Glover and Derrick Wheatt call themselves the “East Cleveland 3”.

The appeals court backs up a ruling last year by Judge Nancy Russo. She found, and the appeals court agreed, prosecutors withheld key evidence. The men had been convicted for the murder of a 19 year old in East Cleveland in 1995. The appeals court judges wrote, “…a reasonable probability exists…the jury would have reached a different decision if the…evidence had been known at trial.” The records show prosecutors didn’t share key evidence about witness statements and other possible suspects.

The men got out of jail last year after Judge Russo’s ruling. The I TEAM shared the appeals court ruling with Johnson. He said, “It’s another victory for us.” He added, “We were at the wrong place, wrong time. A lot of racial profiling going on. A lot of corruption.”

Defense Attorneys James Valentine and Brent Murner have been building the latest appeal arguments with the help of the Ohio Innocence Project, a group that works to help free inmates wrongfully convicted.

Prosecutors could file their own appeal of this ruling with a higher court. Or, they could proceed with a new trial. Or, they could drop the case. The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office has not returned phone calls or e-mails about this.

Valentine says the key witness was a 14 year old girl, and she has recanted. And the attorney says, scientific evidence collected way back at the time of the crime wouldn’t hold up in court today.

Johnson says he’d welcome the chance to go to trial again, if needed, to clear his name that way.

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