Death sentence overturned, court says bartender's convicted killer deserves a new trial

Death sentence overturned, court says bartender's convicted killer deserves a new trial
Annie McSween (Source: Family)
Joseph Thomas in court. (Source: WOIO)
Joseph Thomas in court. (Source: WOIO)

LAKE COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - The Ohio Supreme Court overturned the conviction and death sentence of a man accused of raping and fatally stabbing a 49-year-old bartender.

The court's 4-3 decision Wednesday sent the case of Joseph Thomas back to Lake County for a new trial.

Thomas, 33, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2012 for the slaying of Annie McSween two years earlier.

Prosecutors say Thomas attacked the 49-year-old woman by her car after she asked him to leave the bar where she worked. She was killed the morning of Thanksgiving in 2010 after her shift at Mario's Lakeway Lounge in Mentor-on-the-Lake. Cops say she ran to a nearby home to get help, and frantically knocked on the windows. Too scared to answer McSween's cries, the homeowner called 911 instead.

Meanwhile, Thomas dragged McSween's badly beaten body away from the house, and she died.

Justice Terrence O'Donnell said the trial judge improperly allowed into evidence a knife collection belonging to Thomas but not involved in the killing.

O'Donnell said the knives were misleading given the circumstantial case against Thomas.

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