COLUMBUS, Ohio – A man found guilty of killing 11 women and hiding their remains around his Cleveland home got a fair trial, and his conviction and death sentence should stand, state prosecutors told the Supreme Court.
Responding to an appeal by convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell, prosecutors told the court in Monday's filing that he is "the worst offender in the history of Cuyahoga County and arguably of the State of Ohio."
"Sowell brutally murdered 11 innocent women by strangling them to death," prosecutors wrote. "He left their bodies lying around his house like garbage."
In their appeal in October, Sowell's attorneys argued that their client's original lawyers were his "chief saboteurs" and wrongly wasted time by arguing to jurors that there was reasonable doubt about Sowell's guilt in the face of the overwhelming evidence against him and his own confession.
Instead, his current attorneys argue, Sowell's previous defense team should have conceded that he was guilty and focused on sparing him from the death penalty in favor of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"Counsel repeatedly directed the jurors' attention to gruesome and painfully damning evidence," Sowell's attorneys wrote. "This quixotic undertaking damaged counsels' credibility, made them look desperate in the process and likely irritated the jurors by unnecessarily dragging out the trial. Counsels' strategy was not justly chosen; it was irrational."
State prosecutors say that argument amounts to Sowell saying that he was denied a fair trial by getting one.
"Sowell had an absolute constitutional right to go to trial and to force the state to prove his guilt on every charge in the indictment beyond a reasonable doubt," according to the prosecutors' filing. "Sowell's position has no support in case law or in the Constitution, and he cannot demonstrate deficient performance (of counsel) based on the exercise of his own constitutional rights."
Sowell's attorneys will get a chance to respond to the prosecutors' filing, and then the Ohio Supreme Court can rule whether to uphold Sowell's conviction and death sentence.
Jurors found Sowell guilty of killing 11 women from June 2007 to July 2009. Police found their mostly nude bodies throughout the house after a woman escaped and said she had been raped in there.
Sowell's victims ranged in age from 24 to 52, all were recovering or current drug addicts and most died of strangulation; some had been decapitated, and others were so badly decomposed that coroners couldn't say with certainty how they died.
In interviews with police, Sowell said he targeted black women who reminded him of his ex-girlfriend, who had been addicted to crack and left him shortly before the killings began.