CLEVELAND (WJW)– Two men who were in prison for more than a decade were released on a $50,000 bond and reunited with their families Monday following an overturned conviction by an Ohio appeals court that granted a new trial.
Kenny Phillips and Michael Sutton were convicted of attempted murder in 2007. The two have maintained their innocence. Their defense argued misconduct by the two officers whose testimony led to their conviction. A new trial date has not been set, but the judge said it could take up to a year to begin.
“This is the best Mother’s Day. I don’t want nothing but my son right there in my arms,” Roberta Sutton said.
Attorneys for the men argued they’ve been paying a debt they did not owe.
“The state’s case has unraveled and to be blunt, they had their shot, they had their trial, they cheated,” said Joanna Sanchez, defense attorney for Phillips.
“They held back evidence and they deprived these two young men the opportunity to have a fair trial,” she said.
In 2006, the two were teens celebrating Phillips’ birthday and Sutton’s college admission when they said they saw a shooting and a gold car speeding away. According to their defense, the gold car was never pursued or investigated.
Both were sentenced to more than 40 years in prison.
In court Monday, Sanchez said years after the original trial, two other officers came forward casting doubt on the testimony from the two officers. Sanchez said there was a history of lying and falsifying reports.
“The police at the time alleged they were multiple shots fired, multiple weapons. There’s not a single bullet found, there’s not a single shell casing, not a single weapon, not a single bullet hole,” she said. “There’s no reliable physical evidence that tied these two to this case.”
A statement from the prosecutor’s office said it will appeal the decision.
“Individuals shot in head, suffered serious injuries. They’re still getting surgeries as recent as the past month,” said prosecutors in court. “As far as the evidence, there were two police officers that witnessed the shooting coming out of Mr. Sutton’s car.”
Relatives expressed an overwhelming sense of joy they will get another chance at justice.
“Today was a long time coming,” said Morgan Sutton, Michael’s brother. “They’re coming home, they’re coming home after 15 years of fighting.”
The families are set to be reunited Monday afternoon. The Innocence Project was involved in the case.