EAST CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - It is a case that went from trial court to the Court of Appeals, back and forth, back and forth several times -- for 19 years. The murder case against men who have become known as the "East Cleveland 3."
There were tears of joy as Derrick Wheatt, Eugene Johnson, and Laurese Glover walked to freedom in March.
Judge Nancy Margaret Russo ruled that prosecutors hadn't turned over evidence that defense attorneys could have used at the original 1996 trial. The men were convicted of the shooting death of Clifton Hudson, largely based on a witness who has now said she's not sure.
The prosecutor argues it makes no difference that gunshot residue was found on one of the three. Innocence Project attorney Brian Howe countered, "The state can't put a time stamp on the gunshot residue. Doesn't know if it was four months old or if it came from contamination at the police department."
The judges seemed more interested in the information prosecutor Carmen Marino didn't provide. Judge Eileen A. Gallagher commenting, "The point is
he instructed the police department not to turn over police reports."
Prosecutors said, "That involvement was years later." The defense's bottom line is simple, "There was material, exculpatory evidence in the police file and that information didn't end up in the hands of the defense."
The attorney for the men said that the case is about whether a new trial is merited and should be decided by a new jury. The victim's brother Derek Bufford agrees, "If these guys actually done it, then they need to go and finish up their time. If they didn't, I mean if it's to where they didn't do it, then they need to go back and find who did."
Given the volume of evidence and long transcripts the Judge's decision isn't likely for weeks if not months.
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