CLEVELAND – An Ohio appeals court ruling has cleared the way for a Cleveland man to seek financial compensation for his time behind bars after the court found he was wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years.
Cleveland.com reports that a three-judge panel of Ohio's 8th District Court of Appeals found that prosecutors withheld key evidence in the trial of Anthony Lemons, who was convicted of murder in the 1994 slaying of Eric B. Sims.
The July 20 appeals court ruling said authorities violated Lemons' rights by not telling the defense that police identified Lemons as a suspect using shoes not publicly available when the slaying occurred.
Lemons, who has always maintained his innocence, requested a new trial in 2008 and learned through a public records request that an eyewitness identification of him hinged on the pair of white and Carolina blue Nike Air Jordan sneakers he wore in a physical line up.
The witness had passed over Lemons in a photo lineup but told police she identified Lemons in the physical lineup because he was wearing the same sneakers as the man she saw the night of the shooting. Her ID was the only piece of evidence linking Lemons to the crime.
Prosecutors dropped charges against Lemons in 2014, but stopped short of saying he was innocent.
The appeals court said Lemons did not prove he was innocent of the crime, a claim that carries a higher burden of proof and would likely result in a larger payout. But for a civil claim for compensation, a person convicted of a crime would need a judge to declare them either wrongfully imprisoned or not guilty.
Prosecutors can ask the full appeals court to reconsider the ruling.
Information from: cleveland.com, http://www.cleveland.com